Mountaineers lose in ‘The Pit’Franklin rallies in second half to end Tuscola’s season at 3-8
FRANKLIN — The Tuscola varsity football team knew that the odds were against them when they traveled to “The Pit” to face the Franklin Panthers this past Friday night, but the Mountaineers refused to go down without a fight.
Tuscola battled to take a 14-14 tie into the locker room at halftime, but the game slipped away in the second half as the Panthers pulled away with a 48-21 victory that put a fork in the Mountaineers’ season.
“I can’t say enough about this team” said Tuscola Head Coach Brandon Allen. “Every week, win or lose, they came ready to work. Every Friday they laid it on the line and even at the end, they were fighting tonight. That says so much about the character of these kids.”
For a game between two of the best defenses in the conference, one might expect a relatively low scoring game, and that’s exactly what happened in a scoreless first quarter — but for the remainder of the game, football fans were treated to a rushing extravaganza.
Franklin junior Marquel Manning shattered two school records for an individual on Friday night, breaking the single-game rushing record with 341 yards as well as scoring five touchdowns to break the single-season touchdown record (31).
Manning also crossed the 2,000 yard rushing mark for the season — increasing a school record that he had already obtained to 2,205 yards.
Manning’s most notable touchdown runs were for 75 and 51 yards, while his other three were scored from within the five yard line. Fullback Jeremiah Young, who shared rushing duties with Manning also made an impression — scoring once on a 29 yard burst up the middle.
The Panthers’ single passing touchdown came from Dalton Cochran to Zane Fox for 28 yards in the third quarter.
Tuscola sophomore Bryce Myers seemed eager to join the ground game party, and caught fire in his legs as well — scoring on a 76 yard run early in the second quarter and on an 85 yard kickoff return midway through the fourth quarter.
Through the air, Woody Cornwell connected with a wide open Ben Greene for a 36 yard touchdown pass, and Logan Lambert’s PAT tied the game up shortly before halftime.
“Bryce had another tremendous night” said Coach Allen. “I also wanted (Levi) Duffield to be able to score, but we lost him early in the third. He’s been a leader all year. It’s tough to watch these seniors walk away. I don’t have many of them, but they are a great group of young men.”
Duffield, one of only three seniors to start on Friday night will most likely see more of the gridiron. Several schools, including West Virginia have expressed interest in signing him at the collegiate level.
Some other seniors may find a chance to play at the next level as well, but the rest of this young team is focused on a potentially bright future ahead for Tuscola.
“Our kids are excited,” Coach Allen said. “The young kids were by no means looking past tonight, but they have been saying ‘Coach, when the season’s over, how quickly are we going to get started?’, and that tells me that our kids are hungry.
Allen also took time to address the resignation rumors that have been floating around since he felt a calling to preach several weeks ago.
“I’ve tried to avoid this because you know how it can get twisted and turned” he said. “I absolutely have (been called to preach), and I am absolutely honored. I am also scared to death because I know that where I’m at right now (in coaching) is a huge platform and it is so much responsibility. On the flip side, (preaching) is the same thing. It’s a huge responsibility. I wonder sometimes ‘God, why are you giving me so much, because I’m not anything special by any means.’
“I don’t want people to think that I’m throwing myself out there though. If someone calls me and asks me to preach, I’d be absolutely honored to, but until the good Lord says ‘Brandon, I need you to go do something else’, I’m going to be right here. My calling is these kids and my calling is to preach, and I’ll do both for as long as He allows me to. I have no plans of resigning.
“My plans right now are to be back as head football coach next year, but I will let God direct my paths. When He says it’s time to move on, I will move on, but I’ve made a commitment to these young men and I’m going to uphold my commitment.”
Tuscola, which finished its season at 3-8 overall (3-4 WNCAC), will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and for only the second time in the last decade. The returning Mountaineers will waste no time preparing for improvement in the 2013 season.
Next year’s non-conference opponents have yet to be officially announced, but Tuscola will remain in the 3-A portion of the WNC Athletic Conference through at least June 2017.
Franklin improved to 8-3 overall (5-1 WNCAC) with the win and will travel to Freedom for a first round playoff game next week.