After a tough loss last week, Frankfort’s game against Western Hills was a chance for the Panthers to get back on track.
And boy, did they. FHS defeated the Wolverines 40-12 at Sower Field on a Homecoming Friday night.
Head coach Craig Foley saw a complete turnaround in performance from his senior quarterback Chris Hawkins, who last week against Franklin County was 7-for-26 passing for 136 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
“I was proud of the way Chris came back,” Foley said. “He took a lot of criticism for last week. I was proud to see him step up this week.”
Hawkins hit senior Aaron Jackson for a 65-yard touchpass pass and Jalen Washington for a 53-yarder.
Jackson said it took one quarter for he and his quarterback to get in sync.
“We just needed to get comfortable,” the senior receiver said. “That first pass I had was for only about two yards, but it helped the offense get the jitters out.
“I think Chris bounced back really good. I think he had a lot of yards and I did too. He just had to put that last game behind him.”
Out of FHS’ six touchdowns, none were under 26 yards, including two on special teams.
The big play action started early when Hawkins handed off to senior Teantre McGee for a 47-yard run. The Panthers, who have gone without a kicker since the start of the season, sent sophomore soccer player Bailey Spade to kick the extra point. Spade’s kick sailed through the uprights, giving him his first score and FHS a 7-0 lead with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter.
“We recruited him this week,” Foley said of his kicker. “He has never kicked before so he is learning about having pads on while kicking the ball.
“Bailey is going to help us for sure. It is going to give us so many more options rather than always going for the two-point conversion and as far as field position goes, instead of spotting people on otherside of the 50, we can pin them on our backside now.”
After Spade’s extra point and kick off, Western Hills took over at the 22-yard line. After a 4-yard pass from sophomore Nick Young to senior Casey McLean, the Wolverines weren’t able to advance the ball. Punting on fourth down and six, FHS’ Washington returned the ball for the touchdown. A blocked extra point made the score 13-0.
On the Panthers’ next possession, they added a 26-yard touchdown run by McGee, his second score of the game with 8:57 left in the half. FHS increased its lead to 19-0.
“Teantre is one of those kids who is special,” Foley said. “He hadn’t played a lot of football the last four years. He is still learning the game again. We just got to figure out ways to get him on the field and ways to make plays.”
With the ball back in WHHS’ hands, a Young pass to senior Ethan Cox on second down and 22 put the Wolverines’ into the red zone, but the defense of FHS held.
“Defense has been our thing all year long,” Foley said. “It is something that is going to carry us. They shouldn’t have ever got in that situation. We made a couple bone head plays, but I was proud of the way the kids stepped up and made plays there.”
WHHS head coach Don Miller said if they had scored then, it may have been a different outcome.
“I feel like it should have been a lot closer than what it was,” Miller said. “There were a couple times when we were down in the red zone on the one or two yard line and we just didn’t push it. That would have changed the game for us.”
But the Panthers kept adding to the scoreboard with Hawkins’ two touchdown passes. The Wolverines found a successful dynamic with Cox three quarters too late.
Young hit Cox with a 44-yard touchdown pass, and then with four minutes remaining in the game, McLean tossed another to Cox for a 27-yard score.
“Anything that is working right now, we’re going to go back to,” Miller said. “Ethan did a good job catching the ball and Nick got a lot of pressure tonight, but he hung in there, did a great job and delivered a couple nice balls.”
The two late touchdowns gave the Wolverines points on the board, but secured their fifth straight loss on the season. But Miller said he’s treating WHHS’ first district opponent this Friday as the start of a new season.
“I still feel good,” he said. “I know we’re sitting at 0-5. We still have these games coming up and the toughest one out of the district against Bourbon County and Kentayvous Hopkins, who is just a complete stud and a district player of the year last year. We’ll have our work cut out for us, but I feel like we have a new season coming up.”
Miller’s team, which was rattled early in the season with injury, saw the return of sophomore Nick Lockett on defense only. Lockett, last year’s leading rusher and scorer, tore his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in the first game of the season.
“He is just now getting back into it and that’s on top of getting him in better shape for being off three weeks. Hopefully down the road, we’ll get him where he will be able to do both sides of the ball,” Miller said.
And the Panthers (4-1) will attempt to seek revenge as they host Lexington Christian at Sower Field next Friday at 7:30 p.m. Last season, FHS lost 52-14 against the Eagles in Lexington.
“It is going to be a challenge,” Foley said. “We went up there last year and they beat us up pretty solid. We’ve got them coming here and we’ve got to be ready to play. Their numbers are down, a lot like we are. It should be a solid game.”