Franklin scored 15 of its 28 points off turnovers, as quarterback Nick Zucco led a prolific Panther passing attack to a 28-7 win over the football team Friday night, spoiling the Black Knights’ Homecoming festivities.
Stoughton fumbled twice, threw an interception and turned the ball over on downs (deep in Franklin territory). The Panthers scored following both of Stoughton’s fumbles.
With the Black Knights leading 7-6 late in the first half, Franklin punted, but on the ensuing Stoughton drive, Franklin recovered a Stoughton fumble at the Stoughton 42-yard line.
On 3rd and 12 from the Stoughton 33, Zucco found Brandon Eccher in the end zone for the touchdown. The Panthers converted the two-point conversion on a pass from Zucco to Joe Mammola to put Franklin up 14-7 going into the half.
Then, with Stoughton trailing 21-7 midway through the third quarter, and with the Black Knights driving the ball, looking to make it a one score game, Frankie Morris fumbled on a 3rd and 1 run in Franklin territory, giving the Panthers the ball back, and ending Stoughton’s 5:30 drive.
Franklin took over at their own 27 and on 3rd and 7, Zucco found Rhett Davis for a 70-yard touchdown pass down the Stoughton sideline to put Franklin up by three touchdowns, 28-7 with 9:39 left in the fourth.
“We just can’t have that—inexcusable,” Stoughton coach Greg Burke said of the fumbles.
With the loss, Stoughton falls to 4-4, while Franklin improves to 4-4.
Stoughton has lost three of its last four games, but the good news is that the Black Knights are still very much in the hunt for a postseason berth with their last three games coming against Davenport Division opponents—Foxboro and Oliver Ames at home and at Canton on Thanksgiving morning. The Hockomock League’s champion will get a spot in the playoffs.
But, before tackling these last three games, Stoughton will first have to move past this Franklin loss.
“That’s not a good way to go on to the most important games of our season,” Burke said. “I hope we’ll be able to regroup.”
Meanwhile, the Kelley-Rex Division Franklin squad has won three in a row.
“We’ve been struggling early on in the year and even our last two victories we hadn’t felt good about the way we played, but we put a good one together [Friday night]. We’ll keep working hard and hopefully we’ll finish the season strong,” Franklin coach Brad Sidwell said.
The Stoughton defense has played well this season, yielding just 89 points in the first seven games.
In losses against and , the Black Knights gave up large chunks of yardage on the ground, but have been tough against the pass all season. In fact, last Friday’s game at Attleboro was the first time a quarterback threw a touchdown against Stoughton in regulation.
However, Zucco and the Panthers were able to move the ball through the air, with the sophomore quarterback passing for two touchdowns and throwing for a number of third and fourth down conversions.
“They hit us with the long pass and just hurt us,” Burke said. “We just didn’t get it done against a pretty good club.”
Aaron Calixte started at quarterback for Stoughton in place of Alex Fernandes, who was on the sideline, but was not in uniform. Burke said “he’ll be back.”
The coach gave credit to Calixte for his performance. Burke said his junior “did a great job.”
The two teams traded scores on their first three possessions, with Franklin scoring twice, but Stoughton held a 7-6 lead because the Black Knight defense came up with red zone stands and held Franklin to two Mike Carden field goals.
Stoughton’s only score of the game with 2:28 left in the first when Calixte scrambled for a 16-yard touchdown.
First down runs by Calixte, Marcus Middleton, and Morris (on fourth down) set up the touchdown. Calixte, Middleton and Morris all ran well for Stoughton on the evening. Kevin Bernard hit the extra point, filling in for Fernandes at kicker.
Stoughton had a chance to add to their 7-6 lead midway through the second quarter, but Aaron Mack was stood up on 4th and 3 from the Franklin 4-yard line, with the 71-yard, 5:44 drive coming up empty.
Franklin went up 14-7 going into the half, scoring after Stoughton’s aforementioned fumble.
The Panthers added to that lead on their first drive of the second half, scoring on a 15-yard run by Kyle Finamore with 5:43 left in the third.
John Olsen had made a pass deflection on 3rd and 5 from the Stoughton 20, but Zucco found Zach Beiler for a first down on fourth down, and Finamore scored on the next play.
Stoughton then fumbled in Panther territory on their next drive. Franklin got the ball back and capitalized with the 70-yard touchdown pass from Zucco to Davis early in the fourth.
With Franklin up 28-7, Calixte hit Middleton for a 77-yard touchdown pass with 3:47 left in the fourth, but the big play was called back on offensive pass interference.
Calixte was picked off later in the drive, with Davis coming up with the interception with 2:56 left. Franklin ran out the clock to preserve the win.
“We have to play a lot better than this to win next week, that’s for sure,” Burke said.
Stoughton hosts Foxboro next Friday at 7 p.m. in a Davenport Division clash. Franklin hosts next Friday in a matchup.