As season-openers go, coach Adam Reese had few complaints.
Sure, the first series could have gone smoother, and special teams could have been sharper.
But on balance, the Franklin Community High School football team couldn’t have kicked off 2014 in more impressive — not to mention satisfying — fashion.
Playing for the first time since the June tragedy that claimed the lives of two teammates, the Grizzly Cubs sent a clear message with Friday’s 61-7 rout of host Seymour: They are ready for some football.
“They’re excited. We’ve been through a lot this summer, and there’s been a lot of talk about everything that’s gone on this summer, “ said Reese, who’s in his second season at Franklin. “But to actually be able to get out there and play on Friday nights, I think, is kind of a release for these guys, and maybe for the coaching staff, as well.”
Whatever the motivation, the Cubs released plenty of offense and a swarming defense that essentially sealed the outcome after two quarters. Up 41-7 at halftime, Reese called on the reserve unit in the third period, and it put up an additional 20 points and yielded none.
Who could ask for more in the first game of 2014? A coach, of course — one who is focused on the broad picture of a long season, for which the resilient Cubs appear to be ready.
“We didn’t start off very good,” Reese said. “We gave up a score on the first possession and were down 7-0. I thought our kids responded really, really well. Even though it was early in the game and maybe it was only for a short time, it was a little bit of adversity, and I thought they handled themselves really well.”
Adversity, as area residents know, is nothing new to the Cubs. They experienced it on a tragic scale when teammates Jason Moran and Michael Chadbourne drowned while attempting to rescue a friend during a swimming accident in Edinburgh.
Football, suddenly, was inconsequential as players — and the community — grieved the loss of the teens, and the critical injury of a third, in the aftermath of the incident.
Although the passing of time hasn’t erased the sadness, it has given the Cubs time to work through their sorrow and prepare for their season. And if last week is an indication, they are, in fact, ready for the season.
“Everybody is a little nervous, it’s the first time you’ve been out there for awhile, you’re going to be playing some new guys, and so just to get that first time out there under the lights out of the way is certainly important,” Reese said. “But we have a lot of improvements to make, and I think the kids are ready to move forward.”
Offensively, the ground-oriented Cubs couldn’t have been much better. Senior fullback Jacob Stevenson rushed for 98 yards and four touchdowns on nine carries, and senior running back Ryan Torrance carried 4 times for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Franklin regrouped after giving up the early touchdown shut the Owls down the rest of the way. The Cubs gave up a modest 227 yards of total offense but surrendered only one score.
So what do they need to improve on before Friday’s home-opener against Shelbyville? Everything.
That’s just the way it is when you’re back to the business of football.
“Defensively, we need to get better,” Reese said. “We need to run the football better. We need to be just more attacking on both sides of the ball, and I do think that our special teams (can improve).
“We gave up a couple of long kick-off returns. I think that’s an area where we can certainly improve.”