By John Estridge, Sports Editor

When one looks at the Franklin County High School football season schedule, the fourth game is something that sticks out for many reasons.

East Central is the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference bully, being one of the premier football programs in the state. That means any confrontation with the Trojans will probably be the toughest football game of the season including post-season play.

Then, when one is faced with meeting the Trojans on the gridiron with several starters out with injuries, then it is like facing the best with one hand tied behind one's back.

That was the scenario facing the previously unbeaten Wildcats Friday night, Sept. 13, at the local football field. The result was a 35-0 Trojan victory.

Unable to play Friday night were: Clayton Spurlock - senior, starting receiver, torn ACL, out for the remainder of the season; Anthony Moore - junior, starting offensive right tackle, torn ACL, out for the remainder of the season; Kaden Erfman - sophomore, starting middle linebacker, concussion, day to day; Bridger Bolos - sophomore, starting running back/receiver and outside linebacker, concussion, day to day, should be good to go for Lawrenceburg game; Hunter Tschaenn - junior, starting running back and cornerback, sprained MCL, day to day, could be back for Lawrenceburg, should be back for Greensburg.

FC coach Wes Gillman said the injury list had a major impact with the outcome of Friday night's game.

“I'm not going to say we would have won the game with these guys playing, but it would have been a different game,” Gillman said. “The bottom line is, we weren't mentally or physically tough enough to handle a team like East Central. I thought a good majority of our kids played extremely hard, but we were also outmanned at key positions. When you're playing a team like East Central, you have to have 11 guys doing their job. You might get by with that against other opponents, but East Central is a team that will find the weak spots. We had some kids playing in this game who just weren't ready for this stage. Some of that is being physically outmanned, and some of it is being mentally beat before the game begins. That's the hurdle we have to overcome as a community and a program.”

Those negative effects of the injury list could be seen with the opening kickoff. FC won the coin toss and deferred with the Trojans receiving the game's opening kickoff.

Junior Eric Perkins took the kickoff on the run at the Trojan 13 and went down the right side of the field untouched for an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Fourteen seconds into the game, the visitors were leading 7-0.

“It was disappointing,” Gillman said. “We had some younger guys and non-starters on the kickoff team, and we thought they could handle the situation. We were jogging down the field, not fighting off blocks, and not converging to the football. It's almost like they were waiting on someone else to make a play. We have to take a hard look at special teams, and if it comes to playing most of our two-way starters on special teams as well, then so be it. Again, it goes back to this stage being a little too big for some of our more inexperienced kids. JV football is so much different than Friday nights. The speed of the game is amplified dramatically at the varsity level.”

Junior running back Josh Bauman was thrust into the starting lineup, and he was running against one of the state's premier defenses.

“They play downhill on every single play,” Gillman said of the Trojan run defense. “They come hard off the ball and bring the contact to their opponent. We knew this. They are extremely physical. No superstars. No exceptional athletes. (They are) Just kids who play hard and physical on every play. We lost too many of our one-on-one battles up front. We hadn't been challenged to this degree in the first three games of the season.”

For the game, the Wildcats had 73 yards on the ground in 34 touches and an additional dozen yards via the passing game for a total of 85 yards on the night.

Junior quarterback Brady Bogan was 2-of-9 on the night with two passes intercepted. Again, much of that was an excellent pass defense.

“They were in great position and seemed a step quicker than our guys,” Gillman said.

Defensively, the Wildcats had a tough time blunting the potent Trojan ground game.

Junior tailback Jake Fike, 6-0, 205, was tough to take down. He scored three rushing touchdowns for the Trojans and gained 110 yards on just nine carries. As a team, the Trojans had 216 yards on 26 carries.

“Again, we were just outmanned at too many positions,” Gillman said. “When you combine that with a few kids playing timid, it makes for a long night. I'd like to see our kids take on games like this as a challenge. It should fire them up to play a team like that. East Central has been winning the pregame for 30 years now, but going into a shell is not an option. We have a lot of kids who gave everything they had. That's what we're looking for, regardless of the opponent or outcome.”

And FC had highlights. Senior receiver Zach Jewell caught both completions for the Wildcats. His second reception was phenomenal. He laid out in a diving catch along the home team's sideline, staying in bounds and retaining control of the ball after he hit the ground.

Pass defense was also good. The Trojans were 7-of-14 on the night for 65 yards. Without an effective pass rush, the Wildcats defensive backs had a very good game.

“That's an area we've drastically improved upon from last season,” Gillman said. “For the most part, we're in position and making a play on the football. By the same token, East Central isn't a very solid passing team. They did us a bit of a favor by working on it as the game progressed.”

And the Wildcats played hard throughout the game.

“I think so,” Gillman said of the Wildcats putting it all out there throughout the game. “You can say that for the majority of our kids. Luke Moster, Josh Bauman, Andrew Merritt, Austin Hill, there were others, but those four stick out in my mind. I thought they gave everything they had. We just had too many injuries to overcome.”

FC fell to 3-1 and 2-1 respectively while the Trojans are 4-0 and 2-0, respectively. FC travels to EIAC foe Lawrence-burg Friday night while the Trojans travel to Batesville Friday.