Semifinal state showdown

Published 8:12 am Friday, December 3, 2010

Franklin High School Coach Darren Parker speaks to his players. -- Frank A. Davis - Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Statistically, the Franklin and Riverheads high school football teams are fairly evenly matched.

The better of the two teams will be determined Saturday, Dec. 4, when the Broncos host the Gladiators at 1 p.m. at Armory Field fin the Group A Division 1 state semifinals. The winner will go for the state title next week in Salem.

Both teams are 11-1. The Gladiators’ only loss came during their season opener to non-district rival Stuarts Draft. Riverheads lost 32-31.

The Broncos’ only loss was on Oct. 22 to Tri-Rivers District opponent Charles City. Franklin gave up a 21-point early lead before losing to the Panthers 44-41.

The Gladiators averaged 41 points per game this season while giving up an average of 13 points to opponents. The Broncos averaged 43 points per game, while their opponents scored an average of 13 points.

Both teams won their districts this year. The Gladiators defeated Altavista 42-14 last week to take the Region B title, qualifying for this Saturday’s game. Franklin defeated Sussex Central 26-20 to snag the Region A championship.

Both teams have won two state titles in the last 10 years. The Broncos came home with state trophies in 2004 and 2008; the Gladiators did the same in 2000 and 2006.

And both teams like to run the ball.

“We run the ball 99.95 percent of our plays,” said Riverheads Coach Robert Casto, who has been at the helm for 15 years.

Gladiator running backs senior Daniel Weekley, junior Jordan Jack and sophomore Logan Moore all have rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. The team as a whole has rushed for more than 4,000 yards.

For Franklin, 5-foot-8, 170-pound senior Martinez Hill has scampered for 1,380 yards on 202 carries yards and scored 15 touchdowns.

Five-foot-11, 175-pound senior Melquan Mitchell has rushed 964 yards on 109 carries for 13 touchdowns.

The Broncos have rushed for 3,595 yards.


Whereas the Gladiators rarely pass the ball, Franklin does occasionally.

Casto said his team has passed the ball maybe 20 times this season.

For the Broncos, senior quarterback Trey Kigler has completed 26 of 59 passes for 606 yards and five touchdowns, including one for 79 yards. He’s thrown only two interceptions.

Six-foot-2 senior receiver Justin Grant has made 11 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns. Grant has scored a total of 15 touchdowns.

Another difference:

The Gladiators don’t run for 2-point conversions.

“We have a kicker,” Casto said.

Freshman Sam Goodson has made 67 out of 71 extra points.

Franklin has scored 21 times on 2-point conversions, with Mitchell leading with 8 conversions and Hill following with 7. Junior kicker Antone Bland has made 10 out of 17 extra points.


Both Casto and Franklin Head Coach Darren Parker claim their opponents have good-sized players.

“They have a big team,” Parker said about the Gladiators. “They’re aggressive and well disciplined.”

“I know we’re not as big as Franklin,” Casto said. “I really don’t know what to expect. They’re big and fast and very well coached. They’re a good football team.”

When a team gets this far into the playoffs, they’re the best, both coaches said.

“There’s only four teams left in the state,” said Parker, who has led the Franklin football program for seven years. “You’re gonna run into a variation of speed, size and sometimes a combination of both. This is the state semi(final)s. To become state champions, you have to be the best.”

Parker believes in concentrating on the team Sunday through Friday to make sure the Broncos are prepared on offense, defense and special teams.

“We have to execute on three phases of the game,” he said. “If we do, we’ll be fine.”

“Obviously, when you get to this level, they’re good,” Casto said. “But we’re good.”