SOMERSET, NJ - One step forward, two steps back.
The Warrior’s fell 0-2 with a 42-7 loss to a divisional rival and reigning sectional champion Phillipsburg.
Despite struggling early, key mistakes in the second quarter squashed what looked to be a Franklin team finding a groove and kept the game firmly in the Stateliners’ control.
Phillipsburg opened up the scoring on their first drive, culminating in quarterback Ben Ries connecting with Stephen Gural in the end zone from 7 yards out. After going three-and-out on offense, Franklin’s defense was in a position to get off the field if they could hold the Stateliners on fourth down. Instead of ending the drive, the Warriors’ linebackers got held up on a play-action pass that saw Phillipsburg’s Tommy Coury make a catch over the top of the linebackers for a 29-yard touchdown and Ben Ries second passing touchdown of the night.
Seemingly undeterred despite going down by 14 early on, Franklin’s offense drove down the field led by two big runs from De’Jhon Thomas and Donnele McQuilla. The drive ultimately stalled and the Warriors turned it over on downs after an incomplete pass on fourth down.
Franklin was able to hold off Phillipsburg’s next offensive onslaught and forced a punt, but this is where the Warrior’s mistakes put the game out of their hands.
Franklin turned the ball over on the punt, putting the Stateliners in a strong position to score. And that’s exactly what they did when running back Matt Quetel ran in an 11-yard touchdown on their first play from scrimmage with 4:26 remaining in the half. Quetel would spend much of Friday night in the Franklin end zone.
Then Franklin fumbled a snap on their next drive, turning the ball over on their own 17-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Quentel scored his second rushing touchdown of the night, taking the handoff from quarterback Ben Ries up the middle for a 17-yard score. With less than 30 seconds off the game clock, the Warriors were now down 28-0 with only a few minutes left in the first half.
The Warriors showed some signs of life after Donnele McQuilla caught a short pass from Kevon Gordon and made a beautiful run down the sideline for Franklin’s first and only touchdown of the night.
But it didn’t last long. Phillipsburg returned the favor by driving down the field and giving Quetel his third touchdown of the night and closing out the scoring for the first half.
Unfortunately for Franklin, the second half was more of the same. Though Phillipsburg only tacked on one more touchdown – Quetel’s fourth – the Warrior’s mistakes continued to frustrate their progress. Facing another fourth down opportunity to get off the field in the third quarter, Franklin’s defensive line jumped offside, allowing Phillipsburg to continue the drive that led to Quetel’s final touchdown. When the offense finally got a drive going in the late third quarter and early fourth, it ended with an interception by Phillipsburg’s Christian Chiulli on a deep throw from Kevon Gordon.
Despite losing two games to open the season against tough opponents, Franklin showed some positive signs last night. A few key mental mistakes let Phillipsburg run away with the game, but if those can be corrected, the Warriors can put together a promising season.
Franklin will have an opportunity to rebound on the road against Hillsborough, another divisional opponent, on Friday, Sept. 20. The Warriors’ have come out on top in four of the last five matchups between the teams.
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