A little bit of luck went a long way for Franklin-Simpson.
The Wildcats held the lead over Greenwood for 46 minutes Friday night and when they lost it they needed some luck to get it back. It came in the form of Hunter Janes, whose first reception on the night proved to be the biggest of the game, and perhaps one talked about for years to come.
Franklin-Simpson quarterback Jackson Caudill threw a prayer into the end zone with 14 seconds remaining, and Hanes came down with the catch that initially deflected off Greenwood defender Malcolm Johnson to give Franklin-Simpson the 24-20 win Friday night at Gator Stadium.
“I was hoping somebody would make a play,” Caudill said. “I was hoping it was close enough to somebody and they got it. I had to take a chance. Sometimes luck is better than being the most talented.”
The second-ranked team in Class 4A handed Greenwood its first loss of the season. Franklin-Simpson’s defense stuffed the Gators’ rushing attack for three quarters and the Wildcats built a 17-7 lead with 8:58 to play.
That’s when junior quarterback Jackson Adams split the seams for a 62-yard touchdown run and Xezayier Snorton scored on a 3-yard run on the Gators’ next drive to take a 20-17 lead with 2:02 to play.
Caudill led Franklin-Simpson (4-0) on an 80-yard drive that stayed alive thanks to a defensive pass interference call on fourth down that would’ve ended the game.
On second-and-10 with 22 seconds on the clock, Caudill roped a pass over the middle toward the end zone where Johnson was waiting on the interception.
Instead, the ball bounced off Johnson’s chest and into the hands of Janes, who ran directly for the ball once it popped into the air.
Greenwood (3-1) couldn’t complete the ball downfield in a last-ditch effort.
“I thought it was over,” Gators coach Chris Seabolt said. “I thought (Johnson) picked it. You see stuff like that happen once in a while, but I’ve never had that happen to me. That’s a tough one.”
The Gators, ranked No. 6 in 5A, didn’t have an answer for Wildcats’ rushing offense.
Saul Brady gouged Greenwood’s defense for 191 yards on 24 carries and Caudill added 112 yards on the ground.
Brady scored on a 4-yard run with 2:28 left in the first quarter to put FSHS up 7-0.
Greenwood played its first game without junior Willie Reynolds, who Seabolt said left the program this week for non-discipline, but personal reasons.
Reynolds’ absence was felt in the second half as Greenwood mustered just 52 yards rushing and two first downs.
“They had everybody up in the box playing somebody in basically every gap,” Seabolt said. “It was tough to get things going. In the second half we went to our one-back stuff and motion and it opened things up a bit. Their defense played lights out.”
Triston Wilson broke through on a 21-yard run to tie the game in the second quarter.
Franklin-Simpson responded when Caudill turned a fumbled snap into a 47-yard run that set up Carlos McKinney’s 3-yard score to put the Wildcats up 14-7 at halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, Maddie Alexander’s 24-yard field goal put Franklin-Simpson ahead by two scores with 8:58 to play.
Following Adams’ 62-yard score, the Gators’ defense forced the Wildcats to punt with four minutes left to play.
Johnson bounced outside for a 37-yard run and a 15-yard personal foul moved Greenwood inside the red zone to set up Snorton’s score to take the lead.
The Wildcats took the ball with two minutes remaining and went 80 yards that ended with a little luck.
“I’d rather be lucky sometimes and I believe sometimes we make our own luck,” Franklin-Simpson coach Doug Preston said. “It was a great high school football game. This felt like a regional championship game. They needed that and we needed that.”
Adams finished the game with 124 yards rushing and Johnson earned 58 yards on the ground.
Franklin-Simpson edged Greenwood in total rushing 247-227 and the Wildcats totaled 320 yards of offense to the Gators’ 258.
Greenwood 0 7 0 13 – 20
Franklin-Simpson 7 7 0 10 – 24
FS: Brady 4 run (Alexander kick), 2:28
GW: Wilson 21 run (Dawson kick), 6:16
FS: McKinney 3 run (Alexander kick), 3:41
FS : Alexander 24 kick, 8:58
GW: Adams 62 run (kick failed), 7:28
GW: Snorton 3 run (Dawson kick) 2:02
FS: Janes 21 pass from Caudill (Alexander kick), 0:14