NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. – The Griz scored touchdowns on offense, defense and on special teams - not necessarily in that order – in its 40-3 football victory at Manchester this afternoon.
Franklin improved to 5-0 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, staying atop the league standings, and went to 6-1 overall. Thus far, the Grizzlies have outscored their five HCAC opponents 235-46. The Spartans dropped to 1-3 in the HCAC and 2-4 overall.
It didn't take long for Franklin to dent the scoreboard. Freshman defensive back Zack Corpe took took the opening kickoff and carried the football 80 yards into Manchester's end zone. But the Spartans blocked the extra point kick by FC kicker Cole Richards after the freshman had made all 36 of his PAT tries coming in.
Senior quarterback Kyle Ray threw for three touchdowns, junior running back Reece Craig rushed a score and senior linebacker Adam Wheat returned an interception for another TD to help keep FC unbeaten in conference play.
Wheat returned his interception 77 yards, marking the second year in a row he ran back a pickoff a long way against the Spartans and his team's fourth interception return for a TD this season. He returned an interception 76 yards in Franklin's seven-point win over Manchester at Faught Stadium last November.
Wheat's interception also highlighted another stellar game by the Griz's defense. Franklin, ranked 15th in total defensie among all NCAA Division III teams this week, held the Spartans to 207 total offensive yards (125 passing and 82 rushing).
Corpe's runback was the first of three scores for FC in the opening quarter. Craig scored on a 23-yard rush a little over three minutes later. After Manchester got on the board with a 24-yard field goal by Kyle Evans, Ray hit senior split end Matt Zmich on a 16-yard touchdown pass play with 1:39 remaining in the period.
Wheat's interception return came with 9-1/2 minutes left in the first half. Franklin increased its lead to 33-3 when Craig scored on a 43-yard pass play with 3:21 before the intermission.
The only touchdown scored in the second half was Ray's 5-yard pass to senior split end Sean Walton midway in the third quarter. For the afternoon, Ray completed 13 of 18 passes for 207 yards and three TDs with a pair of interceptions.
Craig rushed 20 times for 83 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 52 yards and a score. Junior wingback Mitch Deffner made three receptions for 71 yards. Franklin's offense finished with 422 total yards, including 158 rushing yards.
FC's leaders on defense included senior nose tackle Rex Olds with nine assisted tackles, senior linebacker Nick Cochran with total tackles and Wheat with seven total tackles and his big interception return.