Nov. 29, 2008

Courtesy of Franklin

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (Nov. 29) – Franklin College didn’t come into its second-round game holding a grudge against host North Central today.

All the Grizzlies wanted to do was just keep it going in their historic run in the 2008 NCAA Division III football playoffs. And Franklin did just that, coming back from an early 11-point deficit to outscore the previously unbeaten and top-seeded Cardinals 38-28 at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

The Grizzlies, now 11-1 overall, not only advanced to the quarterfinals round for the first time ever, but will have that opportunity on their home field.

They’ll take on Wheaton College (10-2), which won big at Wabash 59-28 today, at Faught Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 6, at noon. FC has the home game by virtue of owning the higher seed (No. 5) in the “North Central Bracket.” Wheaton started the playoffs with a No. 7 seed, shutting out Trine in the opening round.

Nevertheless, Franklin avenged last year’s playoff meeting with North Central, which edged the Grizzlies 44-42 on a touchdown pass play as time expired in a first-round thriller at Faught Stadium.

Senior quarterback Chad Rupp (Evansville, Ind./Memorial H.S.) led FC with his arm and his legs today. He completed 31 of 52 passes for 411 yards and 4 touchdowns and led the Grizzlies (No. 18 D3football.com Top 25 poll and No. 20 AFCA poll) on the ground as well, rushing 15 times for a game-best 83 net yards (matching North Central running back Dominic Sulo’s total).

The Cardinals, ranked second in the both the D3football.com and AFCA polls, looked nearly unstoppable on their first two offensive possessions. North Central took the opening kickoff and marched 66 yards, scoring on a 21-yard pass from junior quarterback Aaron Fanthorpe to sophomore wide receiver Steve Hlavac.

Franklin answered with a 34-yard field goal by junior kicker Machy Magdalinos (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central H.S.), but the Cardinals struck again soon with Hlavac making a circus catch of another Fanthorpe strike on a 22-yard touchdown play midway in the first quarter. Fanthorpe and Hlavac combined on 4 TD pass plays in NCC’s victory at Franklin last November.

But FC fought back and pulled to within four points before the opening period was over. Rupp hit senior split end Kevin Lynch (Bloomington, Ind./Delta H.S.) with a 5-yard TD pass at the 4:36 mark.

The Grizzlies took their first lead of the game when sophomore running back Fred McMoore (Greenville, S.C./Berea H.S.) scored on a 2-yard run with just 1:42 left, but the Cardinals answered before the intermission. North Central drove 60 yards and went back ahead when Sulo ran in from 18 yards out. NCC led 21-17 at halftime.

Franklin took command in the second half.

After Rupp hit senior split end Tony Gregory (Indianapolis, Ind./Cardinal Ritter H.S.) on a 7-yard TD pass play early in the third period, he struck twice with his arm in the fourth quarter. Rupp connected with both senior wingback Neil Craig (Bedford, Ind./Bedford North Lawrence H.S.) on a 12-yard scoring pass and with senior wingback Logan Deffner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) on a 7-yard strike.

North Central scored the final TD on a 7-yard pass from backup quarterback Kyle Kniss to Joseph Sosinski with 5:22 left. Kniss subbed for a considerable number of plays after Fanthorpe was hobbled by a hard hit on a running play in the first half.

Franklin’s defense clamped down on the Cardinals’ offense after those first two possessions.

The Grizzlies’ defense was led by senior cornerback Scott Martin (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.), who had 9 total tackles and an interception to thwart North Central’s last hopes. Senior outside linebacker Levi Smythe (Franklin, Ind./H.S.) had 8 tackles, including 2-1/2 sacks, and senior defensive end Dan McManus (Cincinnati, Ohio/Roger Bacon H.S.) made 7 tackles, including 2 QB sacks.