With the league title decided going into Thanksgiving, it would have been easy for both Franklin and King Philip to walk it in. Yet with pride on the line, both football teams fought to the end in one of the closer games between the two rivals. Despite a tough first half, the KP Warriors came back to defeat the Franklin Panthers, 20-13, in Franklin.
Franklin got on the board first with a quick score on the opening drive. Getting down to the KP three-yard line, Kyle Finamore punched it in to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead in the first quarter.
On the next drive, the Warriors struggled to get anything going on offense. KP quarterback John Dillon threw the first of his two interceptions on the opening drive, both to Brandon Escher.
Despite three trips to the red zone in the first two quarters, the Warriors could not get anything going, coming up with zero points in the first half .
Starting with the ball in the second half, a drive lasting 6:08 was capped off by six yard run from Christian Flaherty. The extra point was no good.
“We wanted to say after the first half let’s get something positive going. Had some good possession and didn’t make anything happen. To get something going like that in the end really was the goal,” KP head coach Brian Lee said.
The Warriors got there with a couple of passes from Dillon to get the Warriors to midfield. The improved passing game opened up the running attack for Joe Johnston and Flaherty on the outside.
“I tried to be as fierce as I can and Flaherty was fierce and we kept switching off and we kept hitting the hole…they couldn’t stop it,” Johnston said.
“J.J. (Dillon) settled down and made his throws going in the second half. Now we’re not so predictable and it becomes a little harder to defend,” Lee added.
The Warriors took the lead later in the third quarter off a keeper by John Dillon from the one-yard line to take a 12-6 advantage.
With the Panther on their own six-yard line late in the fourth quarter, the Warriors caught a bad break when a bobbled reception found its way into the hands of Franklin’s Robert Dellorco who took the ball to the KP four. Finamore quickly followed up the pass with a four-yard run for a touchdown. The extra point gave Franklin the 13-12 lead.
With less than 2:30 left in the game, the Warriors had the task of traveling 98 yards for the go ahead touchdown. Despite getting to their own 21, a chop block penalty pushed the Warriors back to their own 11 with under two minute to go.
The Warriors quickly passed their way up the field, getting to the 50-yard line by way of a reception to Jason Wholley.
Another pass to Christian Vellante got the Warriors down to the Franklin 31 with 31 seconds to play. Sam McDonald’s 16-yard reception to the 15 got the Warriors back into the end zone.
A defensive holding penalty combined with a pass to Johnston set up KP at the four-yard line with seconds remaining. Going to Johnston on the pitch to the right, the junior running back gave KP an 18-13 lead with eight seconds left. The two-point conversion extended the lead to seven.
“If we don’t block anybody that kid’s strong enough to get so let’s just give him the ball and see what happens,” Lee said about the pitch play.
The Panthers had one last chance at their own 45 yard line with seven seconds left but an interception from McDonald locked up the Thanksgiving Day win for the Warriors.
While the Warriors will finish the season with a 10-1 record and as co-Kelley-Rex Division champions, they will not go to the playoffs due to their loss to Mansfield earlier this year.