NICHOLASVILLE – Going into the fourth quarter, clinging to a 28-22 lead Friday night in a muddy quagmire at East Jessamine, the Franklin County Flyers ditched their usual high-flying ways and went smash-mouth.
Meaning: It was Chris Roberts’ time for the visiting blue and gold.
Roberts is a bull (with speed) of a junior running back, and the Jaguars could not stop him in the late stages of this game.
Held to just 27 yards in the first half, Roberts went on to finish with 123 yards on just 12 carries as the Flyers improved to 7-0 overall and 2-0 in district play.
East Jessamine is 1-5 overall and 1-1 in district, though the Jaguars are clearly better than those numbers indicate.
Roberts and company were positively lethal down the stretch, running 90 percent of the time either up the middle or off the tackles over the final quarter and a half.
Roberts rushed for 50 of his yards in the fourth quarter.
The Flyers drove some 80 yards through the middle stages of the fourth quarter, scoring on a six-yard run by senior quarterback Logan Woodside to extend the margin to the final, 35-22.
“What I was so proud of our guys is the fact that they (Jaguars) had to know what was coming – that’s what they were going to get – and we still did it,” FCHS head coach Chris Tracy said. “You’re talking four or five yards a pop (up the middle) while we’re still in our spread offense.
“I think that’s great, you know?”
And Tracy said Roberts was the key cog, literally and figuratively, with some 240 pounds of muscle and determination.
“Chris Roberts came up big for us tonight with 123 yards on 12 carries,” Tracy said. “And we threw the ball effectively, with 11 of 16 for 115 yards. And Zach (Durham) did a great job hitting all the extra points. In this stuff (mud), you don’t know...”
This helped make up for a relatively quiet night for senior star Ryan Timmons, whose sprinter speed was somewhat neutralized by the lousy playing field conditions.
Timmons, oh by the way, ran back a kickoff 75 yards for Franklin County’s first touchdown of the night. But after that, he was used primarily on the ground, running seven times for 26 yards.
“I thought it (rain/mud) slowed down Timmons, for sure, and that would force them to maybe play a little more ground attack and pound it out,” East Jessamine coach Mike Bowlin said, adding new meaning to the phrase be careful what you wish for.
“This isn’t the most comfortable environment for Ryan, and that’s okay because of our other kids,” Tracy said.
“That’s what makes them tough,” Bowlin said. “If you think Timmons is all they’ve got, then you’re going to get beat because they have Roberts going up the middle at 240 pounds. And they have a Division I quarterback in Woodside.
“Roberts can play the game, and I think that’s what puts them at a different level than most anybody you’ll play because they have so many different weapons, and he’s so good.
“He’s a Division I running back. I know he’s just a junior, but he’s Division I.”
Bowlin was full of hope after Tyler Edmundson scored on a three-yard touchdown run and Blake Hinkle ran in the two-point conversion with 4:14 left in the third quarter to bring his team back within six of the Flyers.
The Jaguars clearly had the momentum.
“We felt great right there,” Bowlin said. “I was kind of looking at the clock right then, thinking, there are a lot of teams this year that looked at the clock at that point and it was like, 60-10. They (Flyers) were just beating teams to death.”
“Had it been dry, I think we could have put up 50-60 points tonight,” Tracy said. “But I just don’t think you make a big deal out of it (rain/mud). If you’re a good football team, you just can’t use that as an excuse.”
East Jessamine took it to the Flyers early in the game, marching 65 yards on six plays to get a five-yard touchdown run from running back Jared Caudill. Hayden Tatman caught a conversion pass from Jacob Goldey for an 8-0 Jaguars lead.
Timmons ran the ensuing kickoff back, largely untouched, and Franklin County took the lead just a few minutes later on a 23-yard pass from Woodside to Greg Maupin.
But EJHS tied it at 14-14 when Caudill ran back the next kickoff 80 yards.
The Flyers took the 21-14 halftime lead late in the second quarter on a six-yard run by Timmons, and FCHS extended the margin to 28-14 on the second play of the third quarter on a 40-yard touchdown run by Roberts.
Durham managed to make all seven of his extra points, which is remarkable, again and again, on a playing surface better suited for mud wrestling.
Not to be lost in all this is that the Franklin County defense is improving as the season rolls on.
Sophomore linebacker Jared Marshall was all over the field for FCHS Friday, leading all defenders with 13 tackles, including 10 solo.
“Our defense is coming along great,” Tracy said.
Caudill rushed 13 times for 98 yards for East Jessamine.
Franklin County out-gained the Jaguars, 336 yards to 281.
The Flyers host Woodford County Friday while the Jaguars are at Montgomery County.