By John Estridge, Sports Editor

Franklin County junior tailback Hunter Tschaenn gained 219 yards on just 16 touches and scored five touchdowns.

And that was just the first half.

He went on to accumulate 291 yards, and he scored one more touchdown in the second half for a total of six touchdowns as the Wildcats defeated Rushville 53-20 Saturday, Sept. 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium in the Southeastern Showdown.

“Hunter is a really hard worker, and he's a great teammate,” FC coach Wes Gillman said. “I think that's what sets him apart from other backs we've had in the past. We have a lot of kids who fall into that category this year, but when you combine those characteristics with Hunter's speed, you've got something special. He's a little bit undersized, but that might be what plays a role in his tenacity. He runs with a chip on his shoulder. I just love his attitude.”

As a team, the Wildcats gained 411 yards on the ground and 457 total yards. To eat up that much yardage on the ground, means the offensive line was doing its job well.

“Coach (Brandon) Good does a great job of holding these guys accountable,” Gillman said. “A lot of people don't realize how much goes into these run plays. It can get complicated with different defensive fronts and looks. We work extremely hard throughout the week preparing these kids for games, but at the end of the day, the players are the ones who have to go out and execute. They're playing hard right now. Not only the offensive line, but our receivers and lead blockers are giving full effort. They're all getting to their targets and looking for work. It's fun to coach.”

After a three-and-out by the Lions to open up the game, FC's offense went to work and set the tone for the day. Starting on their own 28, the Wildcats drove the ball down the field culminating in a six-yard touchdown run by Tschaenn, a pitch to the right. It took a dozen plays and 5:30. Tschaenn had nine touches during the drive and picked up all but 14 of the yards. Eight yards were levied for a facemask penalty against the Lions, and senior quarterback Brady Bogan had a four-yard and a two-yard pickup and a run for no yards.

After another three and out by Rushville and a short punt, the Wildcats scored its second touchdown on an 11-yard touchdown run by Tschaenn with a trap playto the left. Tschaenn picked up all 25 of the Wildcat yards on that drive. Junior Cole Rapp missed his first extra-point attempt this season.

Bogan, from his safety position, intercepted a pass on a gimmick play. Senior runner Nick Lawler ran a few steps to the left before he released the pass down the middle of the field. It was one of two interceptions by the Wildcat backs on the day.

“Coach Bolos has done a great job with our defensive backs getting them to not settle for incompletions,” Gillman said. “On both of those interceptions, our kids did a great job of making a play on the ball and high pointing the football. We've put a huge emphasis on creating turnovers this year, but the kids have to be in the right position in order for that to happen. That takes effort and preparation throughout the week.”

Unfortunately, for the Wildcats, the Lions turned around and made their own interception on the next play, taking over on their own 17. However, after making their initial first down on the game, the ensuing Lion drive fizzled out on their 49. A short punt was made better for the Lions by the resulting roll. FC took over on the Wildcats' 27.

On the ensuing Wildcat play from scrimmage, Tschaenn started down the middle, cut right and went down the Wildcat sidelines untouched for a 73-yard touchdown run. Rapp's kick made the score 20-0 with 9:17 left in the half.

“With his speed, all he needs is a crease,” Gillman said of Tschaenn. “On that particular play, we were able to crash everything down, and Hunter was able to reach the edge. Our receivers have been doing a great job of blocking downfield. A lot of times that's what turns a 10-to-15 yard gain into a touchdown.”

“These kids get it,” he continued. “It's easy for a receiver to take a play off when they know it's a run play, but that hasn't happened this year. They're all engaged and looking for work.”

On the first play of the ensuing Rushville possession, Bolos intercepted freshman Rushville quarterback Austin Vance returning the ball six yards to the Lion 28.

“The second interception was made by Bridger Bolos from his linebacker position,” Gillman said. “Bridger is a great player for us on both sides of the ball. He was a bit under the weather throughout the week, and he took a pretty hard hit during the game. I talked to him afterward and expressed how pleased I was with his effort and battling through adversity. Bridger is going to be a big-time player for us the remainder of the season and the next few years.”

Bogan ran for four yards on the first play from scrimmage, and Tschaenn scored on the next play: a 24-yard run up the middle where he broke three or four tackles. Tschaenn is listed at 5-9 and 160 pounds. After a missed extra point, the score was 26-0 with 8:16 left in the half. FC scored two touchdowns in less than a minute.

“That was probably the moment in the game where you could see Rushville start to fold a bit,” Gillman said. “An interception by Bridger, followed by a touchdown run by Tschaenn and all of a sudden we had broken the game wide open. That's just kids taking advantage of the situation and not letting their opponent gain any momentum. I was a little disappointed with our effort in the second half, but that first half was excellent.”

Rushville scored its only first-half touchdown on a 23-yard jet sweep by the quarterback's brother, junior Jake Vance, with 4:40 left in the first half.

As the Wildcats did against Connersville a week ago, the Wildcats also did to the fellow Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference foe Rushville and scored another touchdown right before the half ended.

Not surprisingly, it was Tschaenn again with a replay of his last touchdown, going up the Lions' defense's gut, breaking three tackles for a 21-yard touchdown run with just 50 seconds remaining in the first half. The score was 33-6 at half.

“That's a huge momentum swing going into halftime,” Gillman said. “Again, I was a little disappointed with our second-half effort at times, but that first half was tremendous. I think we scored on eight of our nine possessions in the game. I'll take that every time.”

FC deferred after winning the coin toss to start the game, which meant the Wildcats received the opening kickoff of the second half.

For a change of pace, Gillman utilized junior Josh Bauman as the running back, and he did not disappoint. Bauman had runs of 38, seven and one, with the last one being for a touchdown. The score went to 39-6 less than three minutes into the second half.

“Josh is a hard worker himself,” Gillman said. “We will definitely utilize his skill set as the season progresses. Right now, though, it's hard to take a lot of carries away from Tschaenn. But I feel very confident giving Josh the football. He and Hunter are two different style of runners. Hunter is obviously an explosive back who can score on any given play. Josh is the type of back who runs north/south really well, and he's always going to fall forward. We will be counting on him to run like he did against Rushville when his number is called in the future.”

At that point, Rushville coach Dan Rector apparently decided the second-half would be a lesson-learning scrimmage. The Lions attacked on the ground, and they were successful, but each drive ate up precious time.

The first Lion scoring drive of the second half was a nine-play, 78-yard drive that took up almost five minutes off the clock. The Lions offense did not hurry between plays, but was methodical.

“Rushville does a nice job with their jet motion and misdirection in the backfield,” Gillman said. “They'll hand the ball off to a speedy receiver or fake it to him and run dive the other direction. At times, our linebackers got out of position and tried to do too much. We have to be gap sound against our opponents, and especially against teams who run misdirection plays. I'm going to attribute some of those lapses to the big stage and being emotionally drained that second half, but we need to clean this up. As the season progresses, we can't afford to have missed assignments against other teams on our schedule.”

After the touchdown, Rushville had a successful onside kick.

“For whatever reason, we didn't go after the football,” Gillman said. “Maybe they caught us off guard a little bit, but that can't happen. That was the point in the game where our kids looked to be sleep walking a bit. Again, I'll attribute some of that to the big stage and being emotionally drained from the first half, but we can't allow that type of stuff to happen.”

Rushville scored another touchdown gaining 51 yards in 13 plays and taking almost seven minutes off the clock to make the score 39-20.

On the ensuing series, FC was faced with a third-and-six from the Wildcat 21. A pick six at that point would have created a ballgame. But Tschaenn struck again, gaining a first down on a nine-yard run through broken tackles.

“Rushville didn't stop playing hard, that's for sure,” Gillman said. “They tried to make it a game. The coaches noticed it, and we were a little concerned with our kids' effort during that point of the game. No lead is safe, and I think our kids let their guard down a little. I'm happy with the way we picked ourselves up though and stopped the bleeding. I think he (Tschaenn) carried about three defenders with him to scratch out a first down. If he doesn't make it there, we're forced to punt, and Rushville has some momentum.”

Eventually, Tschaenn scored his final touchdown of the game on a one-yard run.

The JV offense came in on the Wildcats next series, and freshman quarterback Brady Morehead hit sophomore Austin Hill for the game's final touchdown, a 16-yard play.