Frankfort head coach Craig Foley has said from the very beginning that not just one player will be the star of the game.
His statement rang true when three different players scored touchdowns to give the Panthers (1-0) their first win of the season over Newport (0-1) at Sower Field on Friday night.
While senior receiver Aaron Jackson, an athlete who has college recruiters watching closely, wasn’t one of those names, Foley said he harbors no doubts about his potential.
“He wasn’t shut down, he just had a bad night,” Foley said. “You know he had a chance to make some plays and things didn’t work out like we needed them to. We had other kids step up. That’s been our thing all year long. It isn’t going to be one kid that has success for us, it is going to be two or three.”
The team effort began with 4:09 left in the first quarter when Frankfort pinned the Wildcats on their own 6-yard line, forcing them to punt on fourth-and-19 and scoring a safety on a blocked punt.
“It was good to get some points on the board quick,” Foley said. “I would have much rather recovered it in the end zone for the touchdown, but we’ll take two. I think it had us moving in the right direction.”
The right direction continued back to back for the Panthers when sophomore Jalen Washington returned the kickoff for a touchdown, making the Frankfort lead 8-0. The Panthers attempted a two-point conversion, but Jackson dropped the pass.
Newport answered back on its next possession with 2:34 left in the first by scoring on a 39-yard pass from JaShawn Short to Robert Sharp. The Wildcats’ two-point conversion also failed with a quarterback sneak. The score remained 8-6 in Frankfort’s favor.
Frankfort wasted no time on its next possession. On second-and-10, senior quarterback Chris Hawkins pitched the ball to Jalen Washington for an 18-yard touchdown with 10:25 remaining in the second quarter. Hawkins then handed the ball off to junior J.J. Jones for a successful two-point conversion. The Panthers led 16-6.
“We’re expecting big things from Jalen,” Foley said. “There’s no secret about that and everyone else now knows that. People are now going to focus on him, so now someone else is going to have to step up.”
After halftime the Wildcats worked to get points on the board on their first possession. With a two-yard run, a holding penalty against Newport and an incompleted pass, the team settled for a field goal with 8:56 left in the third. The Wildcats cut Frankfort’s lead to 16-9.
Neither team was able to score on their next two possessions, but on the Panthers’ third, a handoff to senior Teantre McGee resulted in a 30-yard touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The two-point conversion, a pass to Jalen Washington, was unsuccessful making the score 22-9.
It was a touchdown that impressed his head coach.
“He has been one of those kids that has been playing a lot of defense,” Foley said. “Offensively it has been kind of a struggle. He wasn’t quite sure where to line up. He’s a kid that just makes things happen. Sometimes he is going to run backwards and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ but then something is going to come out of it. We’ve got to take the good with the bad and just go with it.”
Along with the Panthers’ explosive offense came a solid defense. On Newport’s next drive, senior Trevon Washington sacked its quarterback on third down and seven. On fourth-and-28, Frankfort delivered again with a blocked punt and took over at the Wildcats’ 28-yard line.
“Our defense has been our rock in the last couple years,” Foley said. “We’re not big in stature, but we get after people.”
With a short field and 9:42 left in the game, Frankfort’s Hawkins connected with sophomore Chris Brooks for a 9-yard gain. On second down and one to go, Jalen Washington ran in for the score. The two-point conversion was good, giving Frankfort a 30-9 lead.
“That’s what we’ve been working on in practice, for me to play to the slot and get open, and to make some big plays for us. I think I did good at it,” Jalen Washington said.
The Wildcats were unable to convert on their next two possessions and Frankfort ran out the clock for the win.
Although pleased with a win, Foley said the work will start again on Monday.
“Good win to start,” he said. “We played sloppy and did some silly things, but it was a win.
“We didn’t block real well on the line of scrimmage with some zone plays. Our pass blocking was excellent. The guys did a great job up front. The backs put the ball on the ground too much early. We’ve got to catch the ball at the wide receiver position. We dropped two or three balls there. We’ve got to tackle.”
Foley hopes the Panthers will improve and learn to stop the run before playing at Rockcastle this Friday night.
“They are going to line up and run smash-mouth football right at us,” he said. “We’ve got to be prepared to stop the line. That has been our Achilles heel in the 10 years that I have been here.”