CLAYTON — One of the big question marks for Northmont entering this season was its running game. Devon Kenerly, the GWOC West Athlete of the Year, rushed for 1,506 yards and 19 touchdowns last year.
Junior running back Michael Franklin has done a solid job so far picking up where Kenerly left off. Friday vs. Tippecanoe on Hall of Fame night Franklin carried the ball 23 times for 280 yards to set a new Northmont single game rushing record while scoring four touchdowns to help power the Thunderbolts to a 35-14 victory.
Bruce Peffley held the previous record of 277 yards set during the 1967 season.
In three games Franklin has carried the ball 64 times for 445 yards for an average of 6.95 yards per carry with seven touchdowns.
“Michael is great kid,” said Northmont Coach Tony Broering. “Like I told the boys, if anybody on our team epitomizes what we have been talking about for the past four years it’s Michael Franklin. First of all he is a great person, a great young man and he is the hardest working kid on the team. There are a lot of guys on my team that work hard, but you would be hard pressed to find somebody who works harder than Michael. In the off season he made himself into a great football player. He is a great kid and I am very proud of him. He is little, but he is a tough kid.”
Unlike Kenerly, who was 5-feet, 10-inches and weighed 210 pounds, Franklin is listed at 5-feet, 8-inches and 160 pounds. That hasn’t stopped him from making his mark this year as one of team’s top offensive contributors.
Tipp took a 7-0 lead following an eight play, 48 yard drive capped by a two yard run by Cade Beam and Ben Sauls point after. On Northmont’s first play from scrimmage following Tippecanoe’s score Franklin exploded for an 82 yard touchdown run. Brandon Goodwin’s point after tied the game 7-7 with 6:57 left in the first quarter.
When Franklin came to the sideline his teammates teased him that he had already surpassed his rushing total vs. Fairmont when he had 62 yards on 24 carries. He laughed good naturedly at their needling. Little did anyone know at that point that he would set a new school record.
Northmont’s second score was set up by an interception by Shaun Myers. Tipp marched 60 yards to the Thunderbolts’ 20 yard line when Myers picked off a Troy Taylor pass and returned it to the 32. Tipp got penalized 15 yards for a horse collar tackle giving Northmont a first down at its own 47.
After a holding penalty Franklin busted loose for a 51 yard run to give Northmont a first and goal at the eight and then Franklin scored on the next play. Goodwin’s kick put Northmont up 14-7 and the rout was on.
On Tippecanoe’s next possession Danny Lewis intercepted a Taylor pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown. Goodwin’s point after boosted the Bolts’ lead to 21-7 with 7:05 remaining in the first half.
The Red Devils went three and out on their next possession. After Lewis returned the punt 13 yards to Northmont’s 49 the Thunderbolts engineered an eight play, 51 yard drive capped by a seven yard touchdown run by Franklin. Goodwin’s kick increased the lead to 28-7 with 3:05 left in the half.
Tipp controlled the ball the remainder of the half driving to the Northmont 48. On the final play of the half Taylor completed a 39 yard pass to Josh Burritt but Christian Cvetnic tackled him at the nine yard line as time expired.
The Thunderbolts next scoring drive featured a fake punt. Facing fourth down and three at its own 44 Northmont short snapped the ball to Danny Lewis who ran 17 yards for a first down at the Red Devils 39. Miles Johnson completed a 16 yard pass on third down to Justin Golson for a first down at the 21. Johnson made a 10 yard pass completion to Jason Kohr to give the T-Bolts a first and goal at the six. Three plays later Franklin scored on a five yard run and Goodwin’s kick boosted Northmont’s lead to 35-7.
Tippecanoe answered with a nine play, 72 yard drive lasting 4:22 capped by a four yard touchdown run by Cade Beam with 5:27 left. Sauls’ point after made the final tally 35-14.
Tipp held the ball for 26 minutes and 41 seconds compared to 21 minutes and 27 seconds by Northmont. The Red Devils had 271 yards in total offense; 215 on the ground. Northmont generated 436 yards with 343 on running plays.
Early in the game penalty flags flew at will. Broering felt the officials were calling a tight game.
Thursday the Thunderbolts will play at Butler (2-1), a team which hasn’t drawn much attention from the Northmont coaching staff thus far.
“We haven’t really looked at them yet,” Broering said. “We have a short week so it is tough on us a little bit in the sense of the fact that we have to start preparing for them tomorrow morning. It is a quick turnaround. We kind of did that last week too because we had the lightning delay forcing us to complete the game on Saturday, so we were way behind getting prepared for Tipp. We have a good plan in place for what we are going to do tomorrow and then we will be here all day Sunday to get ready for them too. I haven’t seen any film on Butler so I don’t know a whole lot about them yet.”
Northmont has seven starters out with injuries including Michigan commit Gabe Newburg and wide receiver Drake Hickman. Broering isn’t sure when any of those players will return to action.
“They are all at different stages of recovery,” Broering added. “We are never going to rush anybody back into the lineup until they are ready to go. I leave all of that up to our head trainer Eric Newman. He does a great job and we want what is best for our players, so if they are ready they are ready. If not, we’ve got some good kids out there that are doing a good job.”
Fortunately no rain fell during the entire game after heavy downpours and thunderstorms swept through the area late in the afternoon.