BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTO BY STEVE WHEELER
The Franklin Rebels ended their season last Friday in difficult fashion.
It was always going to be a long shot for the 6-4 team to go into state contender Cane Ridge’s place and get a road win, though the team kept it as close as could be until the second half.
If you only knew running back Matt Gaca, who rushed for 55 yards in the loss, by that one stat sheet installment, you’d be missing all the numbers on all the stat sheets behind it; all the tough-as-nail runs for first downs, all the games where Franklin leaned on its senior star to help shoulder the scoring when all else failed.
Gaca won’t wear his Franklin uniform again on a playing field, unless it’s to stop back by sometime down the road to commemorate his time with the team.
It’ll happen one of these days; he’s one of the great Franklin athletes in that school’s history.
Gaca finished his senior season with 1,117 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 101.5 yards a game. The closest rusher behind him? Chase Crow, who helped out with 78 yards and a score on the season. Also factor in Gaca was the Rebels’ third-leading receiver this season, hauling in 238 yards and a touchdown in the passing game.
Only college recruit Chancellor Bright and reliable tight end Brock Holthous outpaced Gaca in receiving yards.
When Franklin coach Donnie Webb said the offense flows through Gaca, he wasn’t kidding.
The Rebels got to 6-4 this season (which could’ve been 8-2 if the ball had bounced a bit differently earlier in the season against region powerhouses like Ravenwood and Brentwood) in part because of Gaca. He’s been a lighthouse to guide this program since he got there, and like departing senior Jariel Wilson at Centennial, the team is going to really have to work to figure out who can even come close to attempting to fill the gap.
The Rebels fielded one of the school’s best defenses in recent memory this season, and have a lot to look forward to in 2019 when QB Josh Nichols and WR Chancellor Bright enter their senior years. Bright will continue to field big offers from Power-5 teams, and Nichols will be at his best after improving in his junior stand.
But don’t forget about Gaca if Franklin ascends even further in 2019 and beyond. He’s a bedrock for this program even still. His excellence on the field made him one of the de-facto county talents at the position for his time in high school and his gritty, determined running style should be emulated by everyone who plays the position at Franklin and beyond.
Here’s to Matt Gaca. His career as Franklin’s bombastic bellcow might be over, but his legacy at the school will last for quite some time.