HUNTINGTON LEARNING CENTER GAME OF THE WEEK
By JAKE DONOVAN | Photos by STEVE WHEELER
Senior quarterback Carson Shacklett struck early and late in leading the Brentwood Bruins to a 14-10 road victory at Franklin Friday.
A 35-yard touchdown strike to Parker Bullion (5 rec., 95 yards) on Brentwood’s opening drive allowed the Bruins to jump out to an early lead. Shacklett preserved the lead late in the game with a key 4th down conversion to continue a lengthy drive that ate up a lot of clock time and minimized the Rebels’ chances for one last rally.
Brentwood junior running back Carter McKechnie rushed for 97 yards on 16 carries, including a 5-yard run to give the Bruins a 14-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter. From there, it was all about their defense coming up with stops and their beefy offensive line keeping the Rebels’ defensive front line at-bay in scoring its first win in this rivalry since 2012.
“We just hadn’t been able to beat them before, so this was a big deal to our seniors,” Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford said. “We’ve played this game a bunch; tonight was very gratifying. it wasn’t always pretty but it’s a win and we’ll take it.”
Not taking it was exactly what went wrong for the Rebels, failing to capitalize on momentum shifts, in addition to what the team as a whole described as poor ball control.
“I told my kids to hold their heads up high; that’s a great football team over there (in Brentwood),” Franklin head coach Donnie Webb said. “That said, my biggest issue was how many plays we left on the table. There were moments we could’ve taken control of this game and we let them get away. That’s something we obviously need to correct.”
Senior quarterback Carter Hendry (8-15, 80 yds; 15 carries, 17 yards) led the charge on Franklin’s opening drive, but also provided the game’s first turnover. Efforts to avoid a sack by getting rid of the ball was instead ruled a pitch and fumble, recovered by Brentwood deep in Franklin territory.
Barely a few ticks came off the clock when Shacklett (10-15, 114 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) connected with a wide-open Bullion to give the Bruins the early lead.
“I had no idea I was that wide open when I caught it,” Bullion admitted. “Scoring the first touchdown of the game meant the world to me. We worked so hard on preparation and finally beat these guys. It’s been five years… however long it’s been, but it’s finally over.”
Even when Brentwood burst to a 14-0 lead, however, the game was never over. Franklin advanced to the state quarterfinals one season ago on the strength of several nail-biting wins mixed in with blowouts—including a 41-7 trouncing of the Bruins last fall.
They were forced to fight every step of the way Friday evening, clawing back even after a seemingly costly fumble by Davis Whitehurst just past midfield gave Brentwood a chance to put the game out of reach. The Bruins drove deep into the red zone, only for a pitch play on 3rd-and-goal to result in a goal-line interception by FHS senior outside linebacker Price Wynn.
It was the first of three consecutive miscues by Brentwood, which was hit with back-to-back defensive offsides to allow the Rebels some breathing room. On its first true play from scrimmage on the drive, Whitehurst went virtually untouched for 87 yards to put the Rebels within 14-7 near the end of the first half.
A defensive battle ensued throughout the second half of the game, with FHS senior kicker Christopher Miller-Hill drilling a 34-yard field goal for the only points scored by either team in the final 24 minutes.
Brentwood never saw the red zone in the 3rd and 4th quarters, but controlled the pace through time of possession. A lengthy fourth-quarter drive didn’t result in any points, but kept the clock ticking down, including a key fourth-down conversion by Shacklett on a second-effort push.
“I was determined to get that first down and keep the clock moving,” Shacklett said. “Any quarterback has to have faith in their offensive line, and I put my trust in my guys. They kept me untouched almost all night (only allowing two sacks), and our defense did the rest for us.”
Key defensive stops thwarted a last-gasp rally by Franklin. Hendry moved the chains on back-to-back plays, including a mad dash to midfield before hitting the sidelines with 0:49 left in the game. It was their last great offensive moment, however. Three straight quarterback sacks moved FHS in the wrong direction as time expired.
“My hats off to Carter Hendry,” Crawford notes. “That little QB is a heck of a football player. Our defense did a good job of flushing him out of his option game and that was the big difference.
“The ability for us to make some stops on defense was big. Next week, I’d like to see fewer penalties, but I did like our grit and toughness.”