Undefeated Franklin to battle 12-1 George Wythe

Published 10:57 am Thursday, November 29, 2012

Franklin senior Zackary Hopkins leads in tackle of Colonels' quarterback Juan Thornhill during the Nov. 23 state quarterfinals. FRANK A. DAVIS/TIDEWATER NEWS


FRANKLIN—If undefeated Franklin wants to return to the state championship game for the third time in eight years, the Broncos will have to contain George Wythe senior Hardy Lester during the Saturday, Dec. 1, game.

Lester, who has committed to Richmond University, during last week’s state quarterfinals hauled in a 25-yard scoring pass from quarterback Jordan Byrd with 3:52 left in that game on a third-and-13 situation. The touchdown allowed the Maroons to defeat last year’s defending state champion Clintwood 7-0.

Lester, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound defensive end, also swatted away four passes, stuffed ball carriers and wrestled with multiple blockers during the game against Clintwood.

The Broncos will host the Maroons at 1:30 p.m. at Armory Field for the Virginia High School League Group A Division 1 state championship playoffs.

“Everybody that is playing right now has to step up their level of play up,” said Franklin Coach Darren Parker. “Like I always say, we don’t focus on what they do, we focus on what we do.”

The Broncos are the Eastern section champions with a 13-0 overall record and are coming off 41-11 victory over Altavista in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs on Nov. 23.

“Having home field advantage is big,” Parker said. “We enjoy playing in front of our home crowd, and it’s very big that we don’t have to go on the road.”

The Maroons, who will travel 280 miles to get to Franklin, come in as the No. 2 seed for the Western section with a 12-1 overall record.

“We have played teams this year that have played just like them, but we just want to make sure that we execute in all three phases of the game,” Parker said.

The Broncos will look to senior JaVontae Blacknall, who had 10 tackles last week, as well as sophomore Dominique Gainey and senior Travis Brown, who had seven tackles apiece.

The Broncos have outscored their opponents 661-162 this season, while the Maroons have outscored theirs 459-141.

Franklin Tri-Rivers District rival Sussex Central, ranked No. 2 in the Eastern section, will also play in the semifinal round of the playoffs as it travels to Honaker, ranked No. 1 in the Western section. Sussex, 12-1, comes into the game off a 20-18 victory over No. 7 Lunenburg Central, which ended its season at 11-2, while Honaker, 12-1, comes into the game off of a 17-0 victory over No. 5 J. I. Burton, which ended its season at 9-4.

Assuming Franklin and Sussex win, they will meet for the state title.