Beloved teammate gone but not forgotten

Published 9:00 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

■ One of the people whom Franklin has dedicated this season to is former player Josh Willis, who died last spring. Willis’ jersey number was 1, and it is his jersey that hangs on the fence on the Franklin sidelines. The Broncos won Saturday by one point.

■ I stood on the William Campbell sideline for most of the game on Saturday, to keep the cold wind at my back. I am kind of glad I did. I was able to watch the reaction of the Franklin fans when the game was decided. It was a surreal scene, almost in slow motion, kind of like out of a movie.

Leading 22-21, William Campbell set up for its final drive on its own 21. It was a lot like the ending of the Colonial Beach game the previous week. On second-and-7 from his own 24-yard line, William Campbell quarterback Baron Adams threw a 14-yard pass to Brandon Adams, and a late hit by Franklin moved the ball to the Bronco 47. The Broncos’ defense regained its composure and stopped two running plays and two pass plays to take over the ball and run out the clock.

■ I question some of William Campbell’s play calling in the second half. The Generals were able to move the ball well on the ground, even into the second half. Then the team went to the air. Although Adams was 4-for-8 in the second half, the gains were all under 15 yards. The four incomplete passes were all costly. Two ended drives when Franklin knocked the ball away. And of course, Franklin’s Donzell Shearin had a huge interception in the fourth quarter to stop another potential scoring drive.

When Franklin took the lead at the 8:45 mark of the third quarter, you could see the Generals start to panic a little. This is a team that was not used to trailing that late in the game. Perhaps memories of last year’s loss to Buffalo Gap in the Group A Division 1 championship game were resurfacing.

■ On Monday, Franklin head coach Darren Parker talked candidly about the Franklin coaching staff. The Broncos’ coaches always seem to make the proper adjustments at halftime. During this three-game playoff run, Franklin has played better in the second half each game.

“During the first half, every coach is picking up every little thing. Just like we study film, every coach is studying every play in the first half,” Parker said. “We come together at halftime and go to the chalkboard and make adjustments. We also do this all through the game.”

■ Parker always says games are won and lost Monday through Thursday, but the Franklin coaching staff is actually working hard on Sunday nights. There was many a time this season when I called Parker on a Sunday night to give me some insight on next Friday’s game. I would call around 8 p.m. He would normally say, “can you call me back in about an hour, we’ve got a coaches meeting going on.”

Last Sunday, Parker said, the staff reflected about this being the last week of the season.

“It’s almost a bittersweet end. We enjoy working together so much. We talked about that in the meeting the other day that it would be our last time we would sit together and watch film this year,” he said. “We enjoy each other. We love the kids and we love each other. We get along good. We don’t always agree on everything during meetings, but we always leave as one.”

■ I asked Parker to compare this year’s Broncos to the 2004 state championship team. He said the teams were very different, but both had heart.

“Where in 2004, we had a lot of size and could overpower people, this year we have size, but we have a lot of speed,” he said. “The common denominator for both teams is they have the ‘I will not lose; I am not going to quit’ attitude. They play four quarters. They leave it on the field. It’s not a question.”