Broncos buck Firebirds

Published 12:08 pm Saturday, September 5, 2015

Franklin senior running back JaVonte Baker rushes for a six-yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 6-0 lead in the first quarter of Friday night’s contest against Arcadia. -- Murray Thompson | The Tidewater News

Franklin senior running back JaVonte Baker rushes for a six-yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 6-0 lead in the first quarter of Friday night’s contest against Arcadia. — Murray Thompson | The Tidewater News

Head coach Darren Parker said before the season that his goal was to win his third state championship, anything else would be a disappointment. There’s still a lot of football left to be played, but the Franklin Broncos got off on the right foot with a 42-22 win over the Arcadia Firebirds at Armory Field on Friday night.

“We beat a good team tonight,” Parker said. “We beat a team that was a lot bigger than we were and one that didn’t quit. My hat’s off to Arcadia, but we played well and executed in all four phases of the game — offense, defense special teams and coaching. ”

Franklin started the game strong behind the one-two combination of running backs JaVonte Baker and Quayshaun Jefferson. With excellent field position, the senior rushers carried the ball six times for 30 yards and a touchdown to give the home team a 6-0 lead only a few minutes into the game.

After a successful two-point conversion, the Broncos nearly got the ball back in Arcadia territory when they aimed the kickoff toward a vacant spot on the field. A Franklin gunner was first to the spot, but he was unable to corral the loose ball before the offense recoverd.

“We play aggressive and we practice special teams just as much as we do offense and defense,” Parker said. “We planned to get the ball back.”

A 25-yard run to the left by Tyquan Payton and a 20-yard burst to the left side by Jamal Savage put the Firebirds in the redzone, but the drive stalled when Franklin defensive end Ryan Powell sacked quarterback Paul Brown for a 15-yard-loss.

Instead of punting the ball on 4th and 25, however, Arcadia attempted to convert. A jet sweep looked the have the edge, but Powell made another spectacular play to stop the ball carrier after a gain of only one yard to give the ball back to the Broncos.

Franklin’s second drive started with a pre-snap penalty, their third of the game to this point, as the referee flagged Parker for illegal participation. The two jawed back and forth for a few minutes, and the coaches in the press box pleaded with him to simply ask what he did wrong to not get another penalty.

“The refs have a job to do. That’s why they wear the stripes,” Parker said. “My job is when we think the call is wrong [to dispute it], but once he explained the call, it was the right call.”

Second-platoon running backs Markeen Tyler and Jack Sykes spelled the thunder and lightning punch of Baker and Jefferson for this drive, and quickly bullied their way into the redzone on three plays.

Noticing the Firebirds’ defenders with hands on their hips, Parker grabbed Jefferson and send him in for a play. Taking the ball on a strong side sweep to the right, the back slipped past two defenders, hurdled another and walked into the endzone for a 25-yard touchdown. Another successful two-point conversion gave the home squad a 16-0 lead with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter.

“We have a very strong offense and we want to make sure we establish the run,” Parker said. “A lot of times, the run will open up the pass, but we take what people give us. We don’t go into the game saying we’re going to run this many times and pass this many times. We’re taking what you give us.”

Another well-placed kickoff put the Firebirds in the shadow of their own goalpost to start their next drive, and Parker ratcheted up the defensive pressure to force a three-and-out. Taking over at midfield, the Broncos used six-consecutive running plays to punch it in again. Baker and Jefferson accounted for 55 yards combined to give Franklin a 22-0 lead after only three offensive drives.

On the ensuing kickoff, Arcadia’s Brown found a seam along the visitor’s sideline to scamper 80 yards for a return touchdown to cut into the mounting lead.

Franklin looked to answer quickly as the clock was winding down on the half, but came up empty for the first time all night when the defense clamped down in the redzone. Three-consecutive rushes by Jefferson had the Broncos at 4th-and-1 from the 20-yard-line, but a errant pass in the endzone ended any hope of a score. It was the team’s first pass attempt of the game.

Down 22-6, Arcadia tried to surprise Franklin with an onside kick. The Broncos recovered and quickly marched down the field to score only 47 seconds into the second half. A 25-yard run up the middle by Jefferson was followed by a 24-yard touchdown run by Baker to give Franklin a 28-6 lead.

Parker elected to squib the kickoff — something Arcadia had tried previously — and the Broncos successfully recovered when the ball bounced off of a Firebird and into the hands of Franklin’s Lynn Lawson.

Predictably, Jefferson and Baker continued to get the bulk of the carries on the drive, but a false start penalty forced the Broncos into a fouth-and-long situation. Parker elected to go for it once again, and chose to throw the ball for only the second time in hopes of converting. On that play, senior quarterback Darrien Duck was pushed from the pocket and was unable to find an open receiver before he was sacked to turn the ball over on downs.

“Once we watch the film, we can fine tune those types of things,” Parker said. “You know, you can always play better and execute better on offense.”

Arcadia’s subsequent drive moved across midfield for only the third time all game when Franklin was enticed to jump offside on 3rd and short. It was the Broncos’ seventh penalty of the game.

“We have a lot of things to work on, a lot of things to improve,” Parker said. “It’s our job as coaches to put the work in on Sunday and make adjustments. I think some of that goes toward aggression and some of that goes to being undisciplined at times. Obviously, it was just the first game of the season.”

The scoring slowed until the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, when a 50-yard run by Jefferson pushed the senior over 100 yards. He powered it over the goal line two plays later to give the Broncos a 36-6 lead and effectively end his night.

Arcadia added two late touchdowns to close the gap to 36-22, but Franklin answered with a touchdown of their own five plays later to put the game out of reach.

Franklin improves to 1-0 on the season with the win, and Arcadia falls to 0-2. Next week, the team travels to Colonial Beach. The Drifters knocked off the Broncos, 54-24, last season.

“I know they run the ball well,” Parker said. “They beat us last year, so we have to make sure we are very aggressive. We’re going to watch film of them and we’re going to do what we do. We’re looking forward to traveling up there and having a great game. We’re going to continue to roll, and as always, God is good.”