The only reason the game couldn’t have been described as two or three yards and a cloud of dust was Franklin Central’s natural grass field was actually in excellent condition for its home-opener with Roncalli on Friday evening.
As it turned out, the host Flashes didn’t get their field beat up, but their football team did.
Especially in the second half, and on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Still smarting from its season-opening setback to a solid Southport team last week, the Class 4A No. 10 Rebels roughed up Class 6A southside rival Franklin Central 16-6 in a game that was considerably more one-sided than the final score indicated.
The decision left both schools with a 1-1 record.
Coming in, Roncalli had started the season at 0-1 on 21 occasions since starting football in 1969. It won in Week 2 in 11 of those seasons to level their record. Make that a dozen now.
Franklin Central was fortunate to be down just one point at halftime after gaining just 25 yards of total offense in the first half, and worse, throwing two interceptions and fumbling away a punt reception.
The Flashes took advantage of Roncalli’s one first-half turnover, recovering a fumble on the Rebels’ 18-yard line at the end of the opening quarter and punching it in on a 1-yard run by senior running back Aaron Austin at the start of the second period.
The ensuing conversion kick failed when the holder couldn’t pick up the handle and kicker Austin had to throw it away.
But that was absolute it for the hosts.
For the rest of the game, Franklin Central was pounded on both offense and defense.
The Flashes’ offense was manhandled so much so, it ended up with minus 2 yards of total offense, including minus 8 yards on the ground.
Roncalli went ahead midway in the second quarter when junior running back Nate Fries ran in from 2 yards out to capitalize on an interception.
In the third quarter, the Rebels turned up the heat.
Roncalli added to its lead when Austin fumbled a punt snap in the end zone and had to pounce on the football, giving the visitors a safety.
The Flashes’ last best chance to regain the lead came midway in the third period when penalties helped them reach the Rebels’ 27. But Roncalli’s interior defensive line knocked FC starting quarterback Chris Arnold backwards upon the snap and the Rebels took over for good.
The Rebels all but sealed it when junior defensive back Justin Saylor picked off an errant toss by Flashes backup quarterback Cody Jacob and sprinted 52 yards for a score.
Saylor was just one defensive star out of many. Senior DB Eric Townsend also picked off a pass in the second quarter, setting up his team’s first touchdown. Junior Jake Franklin intercepted Arnold later in the period.
Other defensive standouts for the winners included senior linebacker Nick Eble and junior linebacker Tyler Lucas, who both recorded sacks.
On offense, Roncalli was led by Fries, who totaled 42 yards and 13 carries and quarterback Casey Gore, who completed seven of 14 passes for 72 yards and rushed 10 times for 23 yards.
Roncalli hosts Chatard on Friday.