FRANKLIN, Ind. -- A 35-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds remaining gave Franklin a thrilling 17-10 victory against Washington (Mo.) at Faught Stadium in the first round of the Division III tournament.
Franklin (8-3) advances to the second round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and won its second home postseason game. Washington (Mo.) ends the season with an 8-3 record and was making its second appearance in the playoffs.
Senior preseason All-American quarterback Jonny West connected with sophomore reserve split end Kendal Butler on the winning touchdown pass which split the middle of the Washington defense.
It was a broken pass play in which junior wingback Jonny Hession was the original target.
“I thought Jonny was going to catch the ball, but I could tell that the wind was taking the ball in my direction,” said Butler about the game-winning play. “I made a play and I’m glad we got the win.”
West added, “The play was intended for Jonny. That’s where it was going, but Kendall went on the same route and made the play.”
The scoring play culminated a hectic fourth quarter in which the host Grizzlies scored 10 points after the Bears had taken a 10-7 lead on a 14-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Eric Daginella to sophomore running back Cody Ratermann with 10:40 left in the quarter.
A 36-yard field goal by senior placekicker Mike Wood tied the game with 4:33 left in the game. Then, on its final possession of the game, Franklin drove 48 yards on four plays for the winning score.
“I kept telling the guys that things would turn around and they had to envision the victory,” said Franklin head coach Mike Leonard. “Washington University had a great game plan on defense. It was a game controlled by the wind and we had that advantage in the fourth quarter.”
Franklin had one of the most productive offenses at the Division III level during the regular season, leading the nation in passing offense (360.5 yards per game) and being fourth in scoring offense (48.6 points per game). However, Washington’s defense kept the Grizzlies in check for most of the game, twice intercepting West and getting a fumble that set up the 14-yard touchdown pass.
West completed 35 passes for 262 yards and the two touchdowns. Linville led the team with 14 receptions and 114 yards.
Daginella led Washington University by completing 13 passes for 205 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 41 yards. Ratermann caught three passes for 114 yards and rushed 16 times for 42 yards.
Defensively, senior Scott Moore led the team with nine tackles. Senior Jordan Segner, sophomore Nate Bryan and sophomore Keaton Lyons each added seven stops.
“We knew that we had to stop the run,” added Moore about the team’s defense allowing 73 yards on 38 attempts (1.9 yards per rush). “We were able to get off the field on third downs and had a huge sack that helped set up the winning drive.”
The game marked the first meeting between the two Midwest programs.
Franklin advances to play in the second round against Wisconsin-Whitewater.