Tuscola suffers expensive lossMountaineers lose No. 1 seed, co-title and senior QB
The Tuscola varsity football team’s 27-8 WNC Athletic Conference loss to Franklin Friday night at C.E. Weatherby Stadium was costly in more ways than one.
First, the Mountaineers lost a chance to share the WNCAC championship with the Panthers. Secondly, they lost the conference’s No.1 seed for the upcoming NCHSAA Class 3-A West playoffs to rival Pisgah.
And finally, Tuscola lost senior quarterback Woody Cornwell, who broke his collar bone early in the game, for the remainder of the season.
“It took a lot out of us,” said Tuscola Head Coach Brandon Allen, on AM 1310’s Pigskin Brunch Saturday morning. “Woody has been one of our leaders all season. It was strange, he got tackled and apparently broke his collar bone. But he got back up ran another play. But when he came off, we knew there was a problem.”
“I was so proud of our team how they rallied from adversity and never stopped playing hard. I am so blessed to be their coach. Having kids like this just makes coaching so rewarding.”
If it’s any consolation, the Mountaineers (8-3, 8-2 playoffs, 5-2 WNCAC) will get the conference’s No. 2 seed, but at press time, it was unknown what seed in the 16-team bracket they would be put in, what opponent they would draw and if Friday’s game against Franklin was their last home game this season.
Tuscola junior Bryce Myers capped the game’s 77-yard, 14-play opening drive with a five-yard touchdown run. The Mountaineers took a 6-0 lead after their PAT was blocked.
Franklin (11-0, 10-0 playoffs, 7-0 WNCAC) which won an outright WNCAC championship, answered in nine-plays with Marquel Manning scoring on a five-yard run. Chris Richards kicked the extra point to give Franklin a lead they would never relinquish, 7-6.
However, on Tuscola’s ensuing possession, quarterback Cornwell suffered his injury two plays before Tuscola was forced to punt.
However, the hard-hitting, physical play continued and on the Panthers’ next possession, the injury bug hit Franklin. Star senior running back Marquel Manning re-injured his knee and left the game.
Senior Jeremiah Young stepped in as manning’s replacement and led the Panthers to the Mountaineers’ three before Tuscola took over on downs after a impressive goal line stand.
With Cornwell on the bench, backup quarterback Parker Allen stepped in, but fumbled a snap and Franklin recovered the ball at the three.
On the first play, Young rushed in for a touchdown to give the Panthers a 14-6 lead with 3:05 left in the second quarter.
Matters turned south for Tuscola as Franklin intercepted a pass on the ensuing possession at the Mountaineers’ 34. The Panthers cashed in with 1:50 left on a 25-yard TD pass from Luke Keener to Chance Gibbs to take a comfortable 21-6 lead at the break.
The second half turned into a defensive struggle with neither team able to muster much offense. The Tuscola defense did manage to score a safety with 3:08 left in the third quarter, slicing the deficit to 21-8 when Eric Messer, assisted by Jon Martinez, dropped Young in the end zone.
In the fourth quarter, one favorable bounce for Franklin gave the Panthers a 27-8 lead.
The Panthers’ picked off a Tuscola pass, fumbled the ball on the return, but the loose pigskin was scooped up by Franklin’s Zane Fox and returned 34 yards for a touchdown with 3:02 left in the game. The PAT was wide.
Franklin rushed for 193 yards on 32 carries compared to Tuscola’s 80 yards on 34 carries. Young led all rushers with 113 yards on 13 rushes, while Myers led Tuscola with 41 yards (18 carries) on the ground. Junior Houston McCracken had 25 yards on five carries.
Keener finished 5-of-5 for 67 yards for Franklin, while Cornwell was 5-of-5 for 31 yards before his exit an Allen finished 8-of-14 for 79 yards and two interceptions for the Mountaineers.
Tuscola’s Daniel Smathers hauled in three passes for 40 yards, McCracken had five receptions for 21 yards and Adam Chambers caught five passes for 53 yards.
Franklin finished with 260 yards in total offense compared to the Mountaineers’ 190.