It was being billed as the Hockomock League game of the week: Rex-Kelley Division leader Franklin (6-2) hosting Davenport Division leader Sharon at 7-1.
For all intended purposes it surely looked as if it was going to hold true to form with both team’s defenses bending, but not breaking in the early goings.
The visitors looked as though they were going to draw first blood in the heavyweight tilt, but the Panthers turned back the Eagles grabbing the momentum and eventually took the game, 21-7, Friday night in Franklin.
Following an interception of Franklin’s Nick Zucco on the fourth play of the game, Sharon put together a 13-play drive that started at their own 40-yard line before stalling on the Panther 15.
Eagle junior quarterback Sean O’Neill had three pass completions during the drive, whick featured the legs of Evantz Elisma providing the bulk of the work as the Eagles drove deep into Franklin territory.
“We moved the ball all right in the first half, I thought,” Eagles coach Dave Morse said. “But at times, we shot ourselves in the foot. We’d move the ball, then a penalty; move it some more, then a fumble. We need to play better consistently.”
Throughout the first quarter and a half the two teams traded blows, but neither defense was willing to back down. Outside linebacker Gene Grella blocked a Sharon punt giving the Franklin offense superb field position starting on the Eagles 40-yard line. Zucco went straight to work and looked as though he was on a mission, not wanting to waste this opportunity with the game still scoreless.
Zucco and company didn’t want to waste the gift that was presented to them and marched the ball the remaining 40 yards in 11 plays that culminated in a Kyle Finamore 3-yard touchdown run giving the home team a 7-0 lead.
Outside of Finamore’s two rushing plays, Zucco was involved in the other nine. The Panther quarterback had 14 yards rushing on six attempts, while completing passes to Robert Dellorco and Brendon Eccher.
Just after Sharon entered into Franklin territory on its next possession, Franklin’s defense came up big once again. Grella was "Johnny on the Spot" as he pounced on a fumble on the 40-yard line.
As the ball sat 60 yards away from another touchdown the Franklin offense went to work and two plays later found their lead doubled at 14-0. Zucco hit Chris Johnson for a 30-yard pass and scampered the final 30-yards himself for the touchdown on the following play.
“I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t put the kids in a good position a lot of the time tonight and that came back to bit us,” Morse said. “I thought at times we played well and other times we didn’t. I’ve got to get the guys ready to play a complete game in all phases. We have a lot of work to do and this group of kids is willing to do it.”
Holding onto a 14-point lead, Franklin’s defense would force the Eagles to go three and out on its next possession and once again found themselves only 60 yards away from pay dirt.
This time, Franklin grinded out a 10-play drive with Zucco (13-20 for 150 yards and a touchdown) hitting Dellorco for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Mike Carden knocked it through the PAT, giving Franklin a comfortable 21-0 lead going into the half.
Despite the Franklin defense holding Sharon to a mere 72 yards of total offense in the first half, the Panthers could not keep its dominance up over the final two quarters of play. Both teams seemed to move the ball with relative ease, but neither could find the end zone for the majority of the second half.
Franklin looked as though they were going to extend their lead, but had a touchdown called back for illegal man downfield, while Sharon moved the ball deep into Panther territory, but just couldn’t capitalize.
“We just didn’t finish in the second half; we need to find a way to make it better. We made too many penalties and just didn’t play all that well,” Franklin coach Brad Sidwell said. “The (Sharon) turnovers were big and helped, but that was something else. We need to improve on our game and hopefully before next week.”
As Franklin continued to play poorly, Sharon finally put together a late game drive that ensured they were not going to be going home shutout after Franklin had stalled their previous two possessions with interceptions. O’Neill (7-21 for 96 yards and a touchdown) hit tight-end Adam Banks for a 20-yard score to get the Eagles on the board.
Franklin will be traveling to Mansfield for a 7 p.m. game Friday night in a big Kelley-Rex Divison and each team has one league loss.
Saturday, the attention will shift to Sharon where the Eagles will attempt to key their hold on the Davenport Division lead by beating Foxborough in a 1:30 p.m. game.