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Franklin football team looks for redemption – and championship

Franklin football hosted Gilford on Saturday afternoon, September 15, 2012.

(John Tully/ Monitor Staff)

Franklin football hosted Gilford on Saturday afternoon, September 15, 2012. (John Tully/ Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

FRANKLIN – For both Franklin and Mascoma, the football season will end the way it began – with a game against each other. Today’s Division VI championship between the No. 2 Golden Tornadoes (8-2) and No. 1 Mascoma (8-2) will be a rematch of the season opener, when the Royals beat Franklin, 26-13, on Sept. 1.

The Tornadoes will be looking for redemption, and certainly both sides learned something from the first game that may help today. But the reality is both teams have grown and changed significantly since that September meeting.

“It was more experimenting that game, we really didn’t know what we had,” Franklin senior Nate Grevior said. “It was a long time ago.”

For the Tornadoes, most of the changes have come in the offensive backfield. Jake Jameson was the Tornadoes starting quarterback and Korey Parent was the primary ball carrier when the season started. But sophomore Bruce Carey took over at quarterback in week three while Jameson moved to running back as Franklin used a committee approach to offset an injury to Parent.

The result of all that movement is a more diversified offensive attack. Carey has proven a capable passer and Parent’s return to health gives the Tornadoes three talented runners in Jameson, Parent and Kody Benwell, who had 85 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in last week’s 14-10 semifinal win over No. 3 Campbell.

“We had to modify our offense and we’re doing some stuff Franklin has never done before,” offensive coordinator Jeff Kaplan said. “A little bit more passing, and we’re running by committee, but each back has their own specialty. Kody is the inside power runner, Korey has speed and power, and Jake is that elusive outside runner.”

The guys opening the holes for that trio of backs has stayed the same – center Lucas Gagne, guards Ian Jipson and Patrick Kaplan, tackles Sam Berry and Noah Nadeau and tight ends Kirk Klinger and Isaac Muniz. Those seven have done some position shuffling, but that just gives them flexibility as a unit.

There haven’t been many personnel or schematic changes for Franklin’s defense, but it has grown since the season opener. After giving up 26 points to Mascoma, the Tornadoes posted two shutouts in the next three weeks and allowed only one other team to score more against them, and Franklin still won that game, 33-29, at Campbell on Oct. 6. The Tornadoes did give up 26 to Bishop Brady in the regular-season finale, but that was an overtime game that was deadlocked 13-13 after regulation.

Mascoma’s transformation has been more about confidence and momentum. The Royals football team has been around for only five years. They endured a 23-game losing streak during those early seasons and were just 2-7 last year. And when they lost to Newport, 21-14, on Sept. 22, to find themselves at 2-2 this year, it looked like another losing season was about to unfold.

Instead, Mascoma ripped off a seven-game winning streak. The Royals averaged 34 points per game during that streak as they pounded teams with their double wing running attack. Senior Spencer Pierce is their leading rusher, but last week Kyle Kosiorek had a team-high 151 yards and two touchdowns in the Royals 42-6 semifinal win over No. 4 Newfound, while Mike Seiffert had 61 yards and two touchdowns and Eddie Bianco added 42 yards and a score.

The common denominator is the offensive line, the biggest in D-VI. After dealing with the speed of Campbell running back Jesiah Wade last week, the Tornadoes will now be challenged by size and strength.

“They’re a big team with big linemen, and that’s how they want to win the game,” Benwell said. “So we have to take out those linemen to stop ’em.”

Franklin also knows that the best defense might be its offense.

“We have to control the ball, get first downs and play aggressively,” Kaplan said. “We have to keep Mascoma off the field.”

That field will not be the one at the high school in West Canaan. Poor conditions have left that surface unplayable, so the championship will be decided on the artificial surface at Hanover High. The venue change shouldn’t make much difference to either team. The Royals had to play at Hanover last week for the same reason, and last year the Tornadoes played on the artificial surface at Exeter’s Bill Ball Stadium when their semifinal with Epping-Newmarket was also moved due to field conditions.

But if it were up to the Franklin players, they might prefer to play the game in West Canaan on the same field they lost on in September. That way things would have a chance to come full circle.

“I would have rather played at their field,” Grevior said, “for pride.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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