Franklin County’s football team has had a run of success in the last few years, reaching the Class 4A state championship game in 2020 and the state semifinals in 2021.
The expectations were high again this year, but after a 1-4 start another deep playoff run appeared in jeopardy.
But the Flyers righted the ship and on Friday will be playing in the regional championship game for the fourth time in five years.
FCHS (7-5) travels to Bowling Green for a game at 12-0 Warren Central. Kickoff is 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (7 p.m. CST).
“Peyton (Ledford), our all-state linebacker, has been playing on the line,” FCHS coach Eddie James said. “We’re playing our third string quarterback, and we start eight sophomores. It’s been a roller coaster, but we’ve been getting better.”
After dropping to 1-4, Franklin County began district play. FCHS won its first three district games, and its only loss in its last seven games was to Central in a matchup that decided the district champion.
Was there a time when James thought his team might not reach the regional championship game?
“I knew we had a good football team, and I knew we were inexperienced,” he said. “I might not have been feeling it quite as much after the Woodford County game (when FCHS fell to 1-4). When you’re in it every day you can lose sight of the long term, but I certainly knew we could.”
James credits his players, who didn’t give up on the season.
“They just continued to come in and continued to battle,” he said. “We talked to them about our goal. Our goal is to win a state championship. Even when we lost to Central and lost the district championship, our goal was still out there. They’re battling, and they’ve been playing scrappy the last few weeks.”
Junior Gavin Hurst, who started at quarterback when the season began, suffered a broken collarbone in the Ballard game Sept. 9.
Zack Claudio, wide receiver and defensive back, spent two games at quarterback before Emanuel Smith took over the position. Claudio and Smith are both seniors.
“Emanuel has really come along, and he’s getting better every day,” James said. “He’s always had good arm strength. Everybody has a different path. He missed a year, but once he got the opportunity he never looked back.”
Senior Kaden Moorman, who recently decommitted from Kentucky, missed four games with an ankle injury and returned to action Oct. 14 against Waggener.
“Our DI running back is playing wide receiver,” James said. “When he was out Christian [Moore] came on, and we wanted to get them both the ball. Kaden is so versatile, he can block and he run the ball.”
Warren East has rushed for 3,017 yards this season and passed for 1,866 yards.
Sophomore Dane Parsley leads the Raiders in both categories, rushing for 1,443 yards and 26 touchdowns, and he’s passed for 1,749 yards and 28 touchdowns with five interceptions.
Leading receivers have been junior Tray Price with 41 receptions for 775 yards and 11 touchdowns, and senior Ahmad Alexander with 38 catches for 600 yards for 10 touchdowns.
Senior Quinton Hollis has rushed for 941 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” James said of the game. “They’re a really, really good football team, but we get to play for a regional championship. Everyone’s journey is different. There are teams that are 12-0 with a tradition of success.”
Franklin County’s losses were to Scott County, Corbin, Ballard, Woodford County and Central.
“We played an unbelievable schedule,” James said. “The five teams we lost to are 52-8, and all five of them are playing this weekend. That tells you a lot.”