Quarterback Billy Atkins passed for four touchdowns as No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph battled past No. 9 Franklin, 35-23, as the Gaels overcame a rash of penalties.
Atkins threw touchdown passes Tyler Wilkins and Dont’e Thornton Jr. and tossed two scoring passes to Ausar Crawley.
“It definitely came down to our film in the week we had,” Atkins said. “We knew that they had great corners and great defensive backs, so we had to win our matchups every single time we threw the ball. We used our speed, our quickness and our size for our outside guys one-on-one.”
The game was marred by penalties for St. Joe, stalling drives and extending Franklin’s. It made for a much closer game.
“We can’t make those kinds of mistakes,” Mount Saint Joseph coach Rich Holzer said. “Unfortunately, a lot of those happened once we drove it down inside their red zone. We had the ball first-and-goal on the 3 and instead it’s first-and-goal on the 16 and that type of stuff.
“We just have to clean that stuff up, play a little better. Offensively, we have to make a few plays on those jump balls and things like that and we’ll be fine.”
Atkins and company marched down the field and ended St. Joe’s first drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Just a few drives later, Franklin evened the score with 1-yard rush by quarterback Vernon Brown. Early on in the second quarter, Franklin kicker Simon Spath drilled a 30-yard field goal to give his team a 10-7 lead.
It was the first and only lead for Franklin with Marlowe Wax taking a 5-yard rush for a touchdown, giving St. Joe a 14-10 lead. On their next drive, Thornton Jr. burst open on a slant for 75 yards and the touchdown for a 21-10 lead going into halftime.
Franklin began the second half with another rushing touchdown by Brown, but had an unsuccessful two-point conversion. St. Joe answered with Crawley’s first touchdown for a 28-16 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Indians made one last push with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Corey Crawford, but Crawley scored on his second touchdown reception to give St. Joe the 35-23 lead.
“Specifically as a receivers group, we knew that they would play man-to-man,” Crawley said. “The whole week we were locked-in. We practiced on our man-to-man beaters — our man-to-man routes — we knew it would be a battle and that they were going to be in our face playing press.
“We just worked hard throughout the week and it showed when we executed in the game.”
For Franklin coach Anthony Burgos, the game proved to be a fruitful experience for his team just a few weeks from the MPSSAA Class 3A playoffs.
“That’s our philosophy here at Franklin High School,” Burgos said. “We want to test ourselves. Usually we don’t get to test ourselves this late, so I was very happy and fortunate that we were able to test ourselves this late in the game.”
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St. Joe (7-2, 2-1) will take on Archbishop Spalding on Saturday at 2 p.m. for senior day, while Franklin (6-2, 2-0) has senior night against Woodlawn on Saturday at 6 p.m.