With their undefeated season on the line, the Franklin County Flyers knew who they wanted to have the ball.
They got their wish.
After falling behind Anderson 52-50 after a field goal with 14 seconds left, FCHS senior Ryan Timmons took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown as time expired Friday night at Benny Watkins Field.
“In the huddle we talked about who should get the ball, and my teammates wanted me to get the ball,” Timmons said after Franklin County’s 56-52 victory.
“They trusted me with the opportunity. I didn’t know I was going to score until I got to the 10-yard line and didn’t see anybody.”
Fans in the stands probably knew before that. It was the kind of electrifying run they’ve seen from Timmons throughout his high school career.
“It’s about trust,” Timmons said. “My teammates wanted me to get the ball at the end, and I did what I had to do.”
It was the only time Friday night that Timmons was back for a kickoff return.
Lorenzo McCaskell caught the kickoff, bobbled the ball briefly, and then regained control and flipped it to Timmons, who was standing beside him.
Timmons burst past a crowd early and had clear sailing into the end zone.
The victory clinched the district championship for the Flyers, who end their regular season this Friday at Montgomery County.
Friday’s game was a shootout, with each team answering the other team’s touchdowns with one of its own.
It looked as if the team that had the ball last would win, and that’s exactly the way it worked out.
“If we don’t have the best player in Kentucky they win that game,” FCHS senior quarterback Logan Woodside said. “Ryan is amazing.”
Timmons was one of three Flyers to score multiple touchdowns. He scored three, and McCaskell and Greg Maupin both scored twice. Woodside threw five touchdown passes.
The first quarter ended with a 7-7 tie, FCHS scoring on a 64-yard pass from Woodside to Maupin and the Bearcats scoring on a 20-yard pass from Zach Carmichael to Dusty Puckett.
Franklin County’s Zach Durham and Anderson’s Joe Rose were perfect on their extra-point kicks Friday.
The Flyers (9-0, 4-0) went ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter on a 54-yard pass from Woodside to McCaskell, but Anderson answered with 20-yard touchdown pass from Carmichael to Granville Hayes just three minutes later.
On the last play of the first half Carmichael scored from a yard out to give the Bearcats a 21-14 halftime lead.
FCHS needed less than a minute to score in the third quarter, tying the game on a seven-yard run by Maupin with 11:01 left in the period.
Anderson (6-2, 3-1) went ahead 28-21 with 7:38 remaining on a one-yard run by Carmichael and then recovered an onside kick.
That gave the Bearcats the ball on their own 42-yard line, and they needed just three plays to earn a first down at the FCHS 11.
But on the next play Carmichael threw a pass that was intercepted by Woodside at the Flyers’ 5-yard line.
“I know their schemes since I’ve been there,” said Woodside, who transferred from Anderson County after his sophomore year. “When I saw the tight end coming in I knew I had to get there before they scored a touchdown.
“That might have been the biggest momentum changer of the game, and I’m not saying that because it’s me. The defense had to do what it needed to do. We have an amazing offense, and we needed to get it going.”
That interception started a 95-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Woodside to Timmons, tying the game at 28-28 with 3:41 left in the third.
“That was an athletic play,” FCHS coach Chris Tracy said about Woodside’s interception. “He floated in the air, he was falling down, and he came up and got the pick.”
Before the quarter ended both teams had scored again – Anderson with a 22-yard pass from Carmichael to Puckett and FCHS on a 41-yard pass from Woodside to Maupin – and the game was tied 35-35 going into the fourth quarter.
The Flyers took a 42-35 lead with 9:29 left in the game on an 18-yard run by McCaskell, but Anderson answered with a 23-yard pass from Carmichael to Hayes to tie the game.
Carmichael put the Bearcats up 49-42 on a one-yard run with three minutes left, but a minute later Timmons caught a 43-yard pass from Woodside to make the score 49-48.
FCHS elected to go for two, and Timmons ran for the conversion and a 50-49 lead.
Anderson took over at its own 35 and on the next play Carmichael hit Ross Cox with a 38-yard pass to put the ball at the FCHS 25.
The Bearcats gained another first down on a 14-yard run by Carmichael but the Flyer defense held after that, and facing fourth-and-two at the FCHS 5-yard line Anderson elected to go for the field goal.
Rose’s 24-yard attempt was good, giving Anderson the 52-50 lead with 14 seconds left and setting up the frantic final seconds.
“The kids deserve this, but I don’t feel real good about it,” Tracy said. “We have to play better defense.
“This is the type of team we’ll see all the post-season – well-coached, disciplined. We have to get better on defense.”
Anderson County had 618 total yards on offense to 423 yards for FCHS. Carmichael passed for 288 yards and four touchdowns, and Woodside had 300 yards and five touchdowns.
Carmichael also rushed for 139 yards and teammate Tristin Ashburn had 109 yards.
Maupin was the game’s leading receiver with 154 yards. Anderson’s Cox had 116 yards in receptions and Hayes had 110.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys to compete like that,” Anderson coach Mark Peach said. “Everyone says they’re the best 5A team in the East, and we’re right there with them.”
And despite their trouble on defense, Tracy was pleased with his team’s ability to get the win.
“I’m proud of the kids,” he said. “They gut up when we need something to happen, and they’ve done it the last two weeks. You look at the Woodford County game and it looks like we won by three touchdowns, but at some point you have to gut up, get a stop on defense and score, and we’ve done that.”
Anderson plays at home the next two weeks, hosting East Jessamine Friday and Marion County Oct. 26.
Peach has some ideas about how the Mr. Football voting should go. Trinity’s James Quick is considered the front-runner for the award.
“What can you say,” he said about Timmons. “I know James Quick is good, but I don’t see how he can be better than this young man. Maybe we can have two Mr. Footballs.”