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Franklin County snaps Johnson Central 25-game win streak, advances to Class 4A state title contest


By Chad Hensley
KyForward sports reporter

The relentless, physical and disciplined brand of football played by Franklin County was on full display last Friday as the Flyers toughed out a 20-12 win at Johnson Central to advance to the program’s first state title game.

Johnson Central (10-1) entered Friday as the defending Class 4A state champion with a 25-game winning streak, but Franklin County (9-1) was the aggressor from the opening kickoff and scored on two of its first three possessions en route to a 13-0 lead at halftime.

Franklin County’s Fred Farrier (left), Eddie James (center) and Nick Broyles celebrate after defeating Johnson Central in the Class 4A state semifinals. (Photo by Hannah Wynn)

Franklin County’s first possession ended in a turnover on downs deep inside Johnson Central territory, but the Flyers forced the Golden Eagles into a punting situation. Fred Farrier turned it into outstanding field position with a long return down to the Johnson Central 32-yard line.

Kaden Moorman capped the Franklin County drive with a touchdown run from 4-yards out. Owen Powell’s extra point made it 7-0 Franklin County with 2:25 remaining in the first quarter.

The play of the offensive line was impressive throughout the game, but the first two series proved Franklin County was going to match the physicality of Johnson Central.

“Our offensive line has improved vastly over the mast month,” said Franklin County head coach Eddie James. “They have continued to work hard and are starting to gel. COVID-19 has had a major impact on their growth and development. They have come together at the right time and are helping push us to the end.”

Franklin County later regained possession and methodically marched its way down the field with timely third-down conversions. Nick Broyles then hit Fred Farrier for the first big gainer by either team — a 43-yard touchdown pass.

Broyles was pressured and rolled out to his left before launching a perfectly placed pass that reached Farrier just as he crossed the goal line. That score put the Flyers up 13-0 with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

The fast start surprised many in attendance as Johnson Central is not used to playing from behind. But James and his coaching staff had prepared the team to come out quickly even after more than two hours spent on a bus traveling from Frankfort to Paintsville.

Franklin County center Carson Greenwell and the Flyers offensive line matched the physicality of the Johnson Central defense. (Photo by Hannah Wynn)

“We felt like it was important for us to come out and start fast, especially in an environment like the one at Johnson Central,” James added. “We planned out our trip and arrived early so our kids had plenty of time to come out early and stretch their legs, and get off the bus, so to speak. I was proud of how they executed early and got us out in front.”

Franklin County’s scoring continued in the third quarter when Zach Claudio snuck past three Johnson Central defenders and Broyles hit him in stride for a 73-yard touchdown. Powell’s kick was good to put the Flyers up 20-0.

“The call to Zach was a well-timed play call and excellent execution by our players,” said James. “Nick stepped up and delivered a strike. To me, Nick is hands-down the best in the state. He does so much for our team and is playing at an unbelievable level. He kept so many plays alive for us and just willed us to victory.”

Broyles was 16-for-23 passing for 225 yards and two touchdowns. His season passing totals are now 130 completions in 177 attempts for 2,176 yards and 26 touchdowns. Broyles is the only starting quarterback in Kentucky to have zero interceptions thrown this season.

For the first three-plus quarters, the Franklin County defense held the prolific Johnson Central rushing attack in check and out of the end zone. Three Flyers defenders notched double-digit tackles on the night. Brenton Sears led the way with 14 tackles with one tackle for loss.

Jayden Mattison notched 13 tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Franklin County’s Brenton Sears gains yardage against Johnson Central. (Photo by Hannah Wynn)

Phillip Peiffer, who has committed to play college football at Lafayette College after just two seasons of playing the sport, added 12 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and three quarterback sacks.

Johnson Central rallied behind touchdowns by Dylan Preston and Grant Rice each, but the Golden Eagles fourth-quarter comeback was not enough. Preston had averaged 159.7 yards per game in Johnson Central’s first 10 games of the season, but the senior running back was held to just 82 yards on 15 carries.

“I felt like our defense played lights out,” said James. “For whatever reason, most people thought our defense was a weakness of our team. They lived up to their RPD (relentless, physical and disciplined) motto and I really felt like they took the fight to Johnson Central. We knew that they would throw a punch.

“They are a championship program and wouldn’t just go away. Our kids played tough and executed the plays necessary to put the game away. Hats off to Johnson Central. They fought to the very end.”

The historic postseason run will continue for Franklin County on Friday as the Flyers take on a storied Boyle County program that has won eight state titles. Boyle County (10-0), which easily defeated Hopkinsville 55-0 in its semifinal game, is coached by Justin Haddix and led on the field by Will McDaniel.

Haddix was recently named the Class 4A Coach of the Year, while McDaniel was named the Class 4A Player of the Year by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association.

Haddix is in his first season at the helm of the Rebels after having led Corbin to back-to-back Class 3A state runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018. Corbin’s 2017 state finals loss came against Boyle County. Haddix also led Breathitt County to a Class 2A title as a player with a win over Corbin.

Kaden Moorman (right) hugs head coach Eddie James following Franklin County’s 20-12 win at Johnson Central on Friday night. (Photo by Hannah Wynn)

McDaniel has rushed for 1,023 yards and 19 touchdowns while hauling in 21 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns.

Jagger Gillis, who transferred to Boyle County from Anderson County, has been fantastic in his only season as the team’s starting quarterback. Gillis has thrown for 1,869 yards and 24 touchdowns with just one interception.

Boyle County has outgained its opponents by an average margin of 417-166 this season and has held four opponents scoreless. The Rebels also average more than 49.5 points per game.

“Boyle County is a tradition-rich program,” added James. “I was able to work under Coach (Chuck) Smith for two seasons, so I was able to gain a unique perspective into what Boyle County football means to their school and community. Justin has done an amazing job at the helm. They are a great football team and present many challenges. Our kids will need to be physical and execute at a high level to bring the trophy to Frankfort.”

Kickoff for the Class 4A title game will be at 7 p.m. on Friday at Kroger Field in Lexington.

“I encourage our community to rally behind this team,” James said. “They have worked hard and overcome so much. Opportunities like this don’t happen all the time so please make a point to buy a ticket and get to Lexington on Friday night to help cheer us to victory.”


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