ST. LEON – Coach Wes Gillman could have channeled his inner Norman Dale before and after Franklin County's disappointing 36-12 loss at East Central Friday.

“If you put your effort and concentration into being the best you can be, I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we're gonna be winners,” goes the quote.

Trying to break a 25-game losing skid in the rivalry series, the Wildcats led the Trojans 12-6 as late as midpoint of the third quarter and were still within two scores midway through the fourth.

“I cannot ask for any more from our guys,” stated Gillman. “To fight the way they did until the end, we told the kids how proud we were of them. I can't tell you how many members of the community told me the same thing.

“At the same time, I'm glad that this stung,” he added. “They came to that field (Friday) to win. You could see it in their eyes and in their play. What I take away is we have a damn good team and it can be a fun season if we get healthy.”

Which was a disadvantage that revealed itself late on EC's turf Friday. Already giving up nearly a 3-1 difference in personnel – the Trojans' roster consists of 126 players to FC's 48 – the Wildcats found out about six hours before game time that 28 junior varsity members were forced to quarantine with COVID-related concerns.

“We went with 20 kids and had four injuries during the game,” said the coach, “so we were literally switching jerseys at the end just to have enough linemen.”

EC started breaking chunk plays in the third, going 65 yards on nine plays as Hunter Sohns carried it in from 11 yards out for the tie. Sophie Browndyke booted the extra point to put the Trojans ahead to stay. The visitors followed with a three-and-out and the next drive brought a pivotal penalty for the FC special teams.

A long score by AJ Messmore was called back due to EC holding. On the next snap, the Cats fell on but couldn't recover a Trojan fumble. East Central dropped back to punt on 4th-and-8 but FC was called for 12 men on the field. Messmore gained a dozen and the first down to end the quarter. A 13-yarder by Messmore, followed by Sohns' 13-yard touchdown and the PAT, made it an 8-point game.

“That killed us,” said Gillman of the violation. “All the momentum shifted at that point. You could see the fatigue in their faces, but I'm telling you, they didn't quit. I've never seen 20 kids fight that hard in my life … ever. They say the mind goes before your body; their minds were gone but their bodies kept going.”

The Trojans recovered a fumble on the next play from scrimmage but two offensive penalties – one negated a Sohns TD – had EC punt ing. The Wildcats ended up punting from their own end zone. With another short field, the hosts capitalized. Quarterback Ryan Bond hit Nate Buesing for a 20-yard strike.

Junior Jacob Schatzle, playing an unbelievable game to that point, muffed the ensuing kickoff; FC recovered but Schatzle exited with a shoulder injury.

On a punt attempt, EC blocked the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Starting at FC's 34 after the free kick, the Trojans took just four plays to score – a Messmore run.

“East Central exerted the energy they had left and started barreling off (big runs) … there was nothing we could do,” said Gillman.

That wasn't the case earlier as Schatzle ended EC's first drive of the game with an interception and the Wildcat defense forced three punts as the home team failed to score in the final 11:55 of the second period.

“The defense overall was amazing,” Gillman said. “We're physical, big and fast and did everything we could for three quarters.”

FC (2-1, 0-1) punted on its first possession and the Trojans put together their longest drive. Starting on their own 10, they used 13 plays to score; Bond sneaked in from the 1 to begin the second quarter.

The Wildcats' next three drives yielded two punts and senior QB Adam Kelly being intercepted by Cooper Hoog at midfield.

But FC's next two attempts both produced touchdowns. With just over a minute left before the half, the Cats went 54 yards. The big play was senior Hunter Tschaenn's 30-yard run; a play later, Kelly found Schatzle for a 13-yard score. The latter even attempted both extra points on the night, unsuccessful on each.

Early in the second half, FC had a 2nd-and-8 from its own 43. Kelly lofted a bomb to Schatzle, who finished the play for a 57-yard TD.
Junior Austin Hill again led FC in tackles, being in on 9; Schatzle and junior Bridger Bolos added 7 each.

Not making excuses, Gillman still admitted he'd have liked to see the results with a full roster in tow. Of the 28 held back, he said five normally contribute significant minutes on offense and defense. It was on special teams where their presence was missed, allowing the regulars a short break on punts and kickoffs.

“The kids proved to themselves they can play with anybody now,” he said.

Notes: Friday's home game vs. Lawrenceburg has been canceled per athletic director Denny Dorrel … Sohns, who ran for 139 yards, was running in place of starter Jake Fike. The EC standout tore his ACL earlier in the week, ending his Trojan career… The game was chosen as the Indianapolis Colts Tailgate game of the week, meaning FCHS athletics will receive $1,000.

Trojans 36, Wildcats 12

Franklin Co. - 0 6 6 0 - 12

East Central - 0 6 7 23 - 36

Second Quarter

EC – Ryan Bond 1-yard run, 11:55. Kick blocked.

FC – Jacob Schatzle 13-yard pass from Adam Kelly, 17.2. Kick failed.

Third Quarter

FC – Schatzle 57-yard pass from Kelly, 9:25. Kick failed.

EC – Hunter Sohns 11-yard run, 5:15. Sophie Browndyke kick.

Fourth Quarter

EC – Sohns 13-yard run, 11:22. Browndyke kick.

EC – Nate Buesing 20-yard pass from Bond, 7:52. Browndyke kick.

EC – Safety, 6:11

EC – AJ Messmore 6-yard run, 3:56. Browndyke kick.

Total yards: FC 205, EC 311

Passing: FC 112, EC 84

Rushing: FC 93, EC 227

First downs: FC 5, EC 16

Fumbles/lost: FC 2/1, EC 2/0

Penalties: FC 7-50, EC 8-55

Franklin Co. - Rushing: Kelly 16-40, Tschaenn 6-35, Bolos 3-18. Passing: Kelly 7-17-112. Receiving: Schatzle 3-72, Prows 1-5, Bolos 2-26, Kaden Erfman 1-9.

East Central - Rushing: Sohns 26-139, Messmore 11-59, Kole Viel 3-23, Bond 3-6. Passing: Bond 6-15-84. Receiving: Messmore 2-21, Buesing 3-41, Sohns 1-22.