Franklin holds off second-half comeback by Thomas More to claim NCAA First Round victory

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FRANKLIN, Ind. – Franklin College withstood a second-half comeback by visiting Thomas More and prevailed 24-21 in their NCAA Division III first round football playoff game at Faught Stadium this afternoon.

Ranked 17th in the D3football.com Top 25 poll and rated 16th in the AFCA Division III Top 25 ranking this week, the Grizzlies (10-1) advanced to the second round where they will meet defending champion Wisconsin-Whitewater (11-0) on Saturday, Nov. 26.

The Warhawks, rated first in both D-III national polls, advanced by routing Albion (Mich.) 59-0 today.

Franklin dominated play most of the first half and took a 17-0 advantage into the halftime intermission. But the Saints (9-2) struck back in the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns to pull to within three points.

The Grizzlies got some breathing room when sophomore quarterback Jonny West hit a wide open senior wingback Logan Worley on a 6-yard pass play to put FC up 24-14 with 13:14 to play.

Thomas More fought back to within three points again though when sophomore running back Domonique Hayden rushed for a 6-yard TD with 6:20 left, but Franklin kept the visitors off the scoreboard the rest of the way to win its first NCAA III football playoff game at home in three tries.

FC scored the game's only first-quarter TD when freshman running back Sam Otley scored on a 1-yard run, capping an 80-yard drive.

In the second period, junior kicker Cole Richards booted a 30-yard field goal at the 12:13 mark and sophomore running back Ethan Cook for a 1-yard TD with 3:07 left before the break.

The Saints stunned the hosts and the crowd when sophomore Kendall Owens returned a punt 84 yards to put Thomas More on the board. The visitiors then pulled to within three points when Hayden rushed for his first TD on a 2-yard play midway in the quarter.

West completed 26 of 44 passes for 228 yards and one touchdown with an interception. Sophomore split end Kyle Linville made eight catches and Cook rushed for 44 yards and his TD on 12 carries.

Franklin gained 323 yards of total offense as a team to Thomas More's 246 total.

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