UPDATE: Takeaways propel Broncos to state title

Published 12:30 pm Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mistakes in a championship game are a no-no. Clintwood made them in the second half, and Franklin took advantage of them.

The Broncos picked off three passes and turned two of those into touchdowns in a 28-20 come-from-behind win over the Greenwave in the Group A Division 1 state championship game.

Trailing 20-14 at the half, and having given up some big chunks of yardage, the Broncos made adjustments to their defense, according to quarterback and defensive back Donzell Shearin.

“We went in at halftime, went over the schemes and corrected what we did wrong,” Shearin said. “We got beat on big plays. Coach told us we needed to stop the big plays in order to win the game, and that’s what we did. We just had to make plays.”

Franklin gave up 164 yards of offense to the Greenwave, but just 54 yards in the second half.

On Clintwood’s first drive of the second half, the Greenwave moved the ball to the Franklin 47-yard line on a 22-yard pass from quarterback Heath Counts over the middle to Nick Robinson. But two plays later, Shearin picked of a Counts pass at the Franklin 37.

The Broncos, who finished the season 12-2, went on a 13-play scoring drive. Isaiah Hudson, who finished the game with 145 yards on 29 carries, ran the ball 17 yards to the Clintwood 3. Two plays later. Shearin punched the ball over from 1 yard out. The extra-point pass failed, but Franklin had tied the game at 20-20 with 3:58 to play in the third quarter.

It was more of the same on Clintwood’s next offensive drive. The Greenwave ran just three plays before Antonio Smith picked off another Counts pass, and ran the ball 14 yards, setting the Broncos up on the Greenwave 48. The Broncos pieced together a 12-play drive, all on the ground, and took the lead for good when Shearin scored on a 1-yard run and Hudson converted the two-point run. Franklin led 28-20 with 9:15 to play in the game.

After both teams stalled on offense, Clintwood (12-2) mounted one final drive beginning with 3:47 left to play. But Shearin picked off Counts again with 1:11 to play and the Broncos ran out the clock.

It looked right from the start that Franklin was going to have its best offensive output during its playoff run. The Broncos moved the ball well in their opening series, but a costly holding penalty killed off the drive.

After holding Clintwood to a “four and out” on its first series, the Broncos struck first on its next drive. On a 2nd and 6 play from their own 34, Franklin surprised Clintwood when Shearin threw a deep ball to Derrick Thompson, which went 54 yards down to the Greenwave 19. On a 3rd and 8 play, Shearin nailed Daquan Clemons with a 13 yard strike down to the Clintwood 4. On the next play, Hudson bolted 4 yards for the score. Shearin ran in the 2-point conversion and the Broncos took an 8-0 lead with 3:57 left in the first quarter.

That 8-point lead evaporated in 13 seconds. On Tyler Childress’s kickoff, Clintwood’s Alec Osbourne took the ball straight down the middle of the field for an 85-yard touchdown. Derek Robbins’ extra point kick cut the Franklin lead to 8-7.

On Franklin’s next series, the Broncos pulled off what might have been the offensive play of the game. After Shearin pulled off a first down run on a 4th and 1 play, the Broncos found themselves on the Clintwood 30. Shearin went back to pass and was chased to the left. He did a 180-degree reversal and scrambled to the right and tossed a pass to a wide-open Thompson who found the end zone. The extra point run failed, but Franklin led 14-7 with 1:04 to play in the first quarter.

Clintwood was not phased. On its next series, the Greenwave moved the ball down to the Franklin 8 with help from a Franklin penalty for hitting below the knee. It appeared the Broncos might make another goal line stand that it had become famous for during this playoff run when Clintwood could only move the ball to the Franklin 2 on four tries. But on 4th and goal, Osbourne took a pitchout and rambled 2 yards for the touchdown. Franklin maintained the 14-13 lead when Robbins missed the extra point with 8:01 left in the first half.

Franklin had a nearly 5 minute drive, but could not come up with any points as two holding penalties cut the drive short. Shearin was an inch short on a 4th and 5 run, giving up the ball to Clintwood on downs at the Greenwave 43. The Broncos left too much time on the clock. On a 4th and 3 play from its own 49, Clintwood’s Counts hit Trey Meade with a brilliant over the shoulder ball that went 38 yards down to the Franklin 13. Two plays later, Counts and Meade hooked up again, this time for a 12-yard touchdown pass over the middle. Robbins’ extra point kick was good, and the Greenwave went into the locker room with a 20-14 lead.

As in the previous three playoff tilts, the Broncos came out a different team in the second half.

“It was a gut check,” said Franklin head coach Darren Parker. “They have a great team. They wanted it as much as we did. We had to bring our ‘A’ game. Today, anybody could have won this game. We came out victorious.”

Franklin rolled up 410 yards of total offense. The Broncos also held the ball for nearly 11 more minutes than Clintwood.

Shearin was 5-for-7 for 147 yards through the air and rushed for 51 yards. Malik Brown also added 51 yards on the ground. Hudson’s yardage total for the game put him at 1,132 yards for the season.

Franklin also won the Group A Division 1 championship in 2004. For the Greenwave, it was their second loss in a row in the state championship game.