“Run Rodney! Run,” Franklin fans shouted as Rodney Nelson broke off an 80-yard rush that narrowly missed the end zone.
It was just one of the many big chunks of yardage the Franklin junior running back picked up in his team’s 34-7 victory over Hereford.
Nelson finished with two touchdowns — one in the first quarter and another in the third quarter. Nelson thought his team started slowly, but It didn’t stop them from putting the pedal to the metal and scoring 20 points in the second half.
“In the second half, we just had to turn it up, stay together, play strong and be us,” Nelson said. “We were the better team and we came out on top. I feel like my team is great. We still have got time to improve and we don’t have a lot of time because of the spring, but I’m happy with the team I’ve got. I’m grateful.”
With Franklin (2-0), the expectation is excellence. Coach Anthony Burgos’ teams won back-to-back state championships during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and reached the state finals in four seasons (2010, 2013-2014 and 2016).
Hereford (1-1) also has seen its fair share of success with three state championships.
“We haven’t played them in several years and I remember why we didn’t like playing them,” Burgos said. “They’re a really tough team, well-disciplined and we’re just proud of our guys coming out here, especially our seniors. I’m so blessed that our seniors are able to come out and get their last hurrah as a Franklin Indian. We had some seniors that came back and returned with us on the sideline.”
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Hereford used its usual flex bone formation, running the ball through the trenches of Franklin’s vaunted defense for a score. Quarterback Chris Peddicord punched it in on a 1-yard carry to give Hereford a 7-0 lead with 6:17 remaining in the first quarter.
It would be the Bulls’ final score as Franklin scored 34 unanswered points.
Franklin’s offensive began with Nelson’s first touchdown coming on a 7-yard rush with 5:05 left in the quarter to tie it at 7. Justin Duru immediately took a fumble recovery to the house to give Franklin a 14-7 lead at the 3:45 mark in the first quarter.
Nelson scored his second touchdown on a 37-yard rush to boost the Indians’ lead to 21-7 with 8:01 in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Quentin Demery threw an 8-yard pass to Gavin Nelson for Franklin to hold a 28-7 lead with 8:40 remaining. Demery had a second touchdown on a 1-yard rush at the 5:08 mark to put Franklin up 34-7.
When Hereford senior fullback Will Harrison went down with a lower leg injury and was taken to the hospital with an air cast, the Bulls’ offense took at massive hit.
“We try to do the mix of the passing, but Franklin, they’ve got so much speed and we didn’t want to change it because we were moving the ball,” Hereford coach John Walter said. “We were averaging 4 to 5 yards per carry, so were like, ‘We’re just going to keep running the ball.’ Once they started changing their defense and our fullback went down — may have a broken ankle — that changed some things as well. We had to go to different options.”