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Run defense continues to shine

By John Estridge, Sports Editor

Franklin County’s hard-hitting run defense continues to shine, however; allowing big plays continues to be the team’s Achilles heel.

Batesville capitalized on turnovers and big plays to defeat the Wildcats 44-13 Friday night, Oct. 5.

FC usually is pretty good hanging onto the ball. But Friday night the Wildcats lost three fumbles and had an interception.

Batesville capitalized on almost every opportunity to pull away from the Cats.

“Anytime you have turnovers, it's costly, and a few of those turnovers came on the tail end of drives as we're going into score,” FC coach Wes Gillman said. “It's deflating. It's the difference between being in the ball game and not.”

With the visitors ahead 3-0 and the Wildcats driving, moving the ball 50 yards on just five plays, the first lost fumble occurred with a little more than six minutes remaining in the initial quarter.

“I thought we were moving the ball really well against them, then we turn the ball over and come away with no points,” Gillman said. “Overall, as an offense, we didn't play all that bad. We just didn't finish. It's been the theme all season long. We don't finish drives, plays, games. We're not a bad football team, we just have some really bad plays sprinkled in. It makes it really difficult to get into any type of flow.”

Batesville took over on its own 18. After making a first down on a two-yard keeper by Bulldog senior quarterback Trey Heidlage on a fourth-and-one from the Bulldog 27, Heidlage hit junior Jake Cruse over the middle for a 71-yard touchdown pass.

Batesville’s lead was 10-0.

However, the Wildcats got right back into the game with Augustus “Goose” Runyon scoring on a seven-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.

The junior was playing his first game as the Wildcat quarterback.

He finished with 9-of-18 passing with one interception. He passed for 133 yards and accumulated 54 more yards on the ground.

FC junior quarterback Brady Bogan was sidelined all week due to a concussion he received in the South Dearborn game on Sept. 28.

“Goose did a great job of running our offense,” Gillman said. “What I loved about him, other than his obvious threat to run, was his composure in the pocket. He didn't let pressure rattle him, and when it was time to take off running, he did. He's an athlete. It's a heck of a lot easier to call plays with a QB as athletic as Goose is. He adds another dimension to our offense, and a threat the defense has to contend with.”

According to Gillman, Bogan will remain an integral part of the Wildcat offense. Not only is Bogan dealing with a concussion, he also has a sprained ankle.

“He was held out of practice all week in concussion protocol,” Gillman said. “He was cleared to play, but he got limited to no reps throughout the week. On top of that, he's dealing with an ankle sprain right now that needs time to heal. He'll be back, in some aspect of our offense and/or defense, when he's healthy and ready to go.”

While Runyon’s touchdown run cut the lead to 10-7 at the start of the second quarter, it was time once again for the Bulldogs big-play offense.

After a one-yard run from the Batesville 34, Heidlage again hooked up with Cruse. This time it was a 65-yard touchdown pass.

“We had the momentum,” Gillman said. “We were moving the ball against them, and our defense was stuffing the run. Then, we give up a big pass play. Again, we consistently have bad plays, both offensively and defensively, that continue to haunt us. We can look really good for four or five plays in a row, but when the sixth play is a disaster, it makes it hard to win games.”

On the night, Heidlage finished with a 16-of-22 passing performance for 286 yards. He also gained another 100 yards on the ground.

He passed for four touchdowns and scored another on the ground.

“He made some really good throws,” Gillman said of the Bulldog signal caller. “That's two weeks in a row now that we've made a good quarterback look like a hall of famer, though. They're both good players, but we made them look a lot better than they are.

“We make it easy on the quarterback and receivers by letting them run whatever routes they want,” he continued. “I don't want to take anything away from Heidlage, because he made some great throws, but it's a lot easier to do so when our DB's aren't playing sound. We're in terrible position from the get go, then we try to chase. We have to do a better job.”

From that point early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs continued to pull away.

FC’s last score came with 3:46 left in the game. Sophomore Brady Murray came in at quarterback and hit junior Clayton Spurlock for a 15-yard touchdown pass.

“You gotta love a kid who comes in off the bench and plays hard. He always plays hard, and he has a tremendous attitude. Without question, one of the best teammates around. He's not there physically yet, in terms of competing at the varsity level, but he's always ready to go and does whatever is asked of him. Great kid.”

As a team, the Bulldogs were limited to 168 yards rushing on 51 attempts, which is just a little more than three yards a carry.

“I thought our run defense played great,” Gillman said. “Our linebackers stepped up and made tackles, and our defensive linemen played gap responsibility.

“We emphasized all week long that if we contained number 12 (Heidlage), and kept him from running all over the place, we'd be successful,” he continued. “What we didn't anticipate, is our defensive backs not making plays. Their big plays in the passing game, along with our turnovers on offense, were the difference.”

And for the second week in a row, the Wildcats were exploited by the big pass plays.

“Our pass defense is the most troubling to me,” Gillman said. “We need to go back to the very basics. I need to make sure our coaches are emphasizing that.

“Our defensive backs are letting receivers release off the line with ease,” he continued. “Receivers are getting behind us within the first 10 yards of their routes. We're running behind them and chasing, instead of being physical, keeping them in front of us, and running alongside receivers.

“Our backpedal technique and hip swivel are atrocious,” Gillman said. “I'm getting old, and football has changed a lot since I played, but that's a skill every defensive back should have. We get too cute with drills sometimes. At the end of the day, perfecting the basics is what gets the job done. We'll go back to that, making sure our kids know these things the rest of the year and in the future.”

And once again penalties hurt Wildcat drives and helped the Bulldog drives.

Batesville accepted seven Wildcat penalties for 40 yards. Like last week, there were more penalty flags thrown but either Batesville did not accept the penalties or they were offsetting.

Batesville had nine penalties for 50 yards.

“We didn't have a tremendous amount of penalties, but the ones we did have really hurt us,” Gillman said. “We're not experienced enough to overcome second down-and-20. When you add turnovers to the mix, it's hard to compete.”

With the loss, FC dropped to 2-6 on the season. FC plays at Harrison, Ohio on Friday, Oct. 12.

Batesville improved to 7-2 this season and will travel to Connersville Friday night.