You could see it in Franklin High head coach Donnie Webb's smile: this win felt good.
The hard-nosed Admirals, known historically for their rushing attack and tough-to-bend defenses, won Webb's way in a 27-20 victory over 2019 5A state runners-up Summit.
"I'm just so proud of these kids," Webb said. "Maybe since I've been the head football coach...[we] dad gum run the football, and we try to play good defense...it was all here tonight."
The Franklin team you saw Friday night out in Spring Hill isn't all that different from the teams of the past: they ground the clock down with strategic offense, dominated the trenches with big linemen and schemed wisely against one of the better prep football players in the county in quarterback Destin Wade.
In 2020, the team has also fostered a lethal passing attack, anchored by first-year starter Connor Beavon (134 yards and a touchdown against a stout Summit defense).
Beavon, also a standout on the Admirals basketball team, had been putting up gaudy numbers before Friday's big game, but he did just enough Friday night to help his team avenge its 2019 loss to the Spartans and reassert itself as a challenger in Region 6-6A.
"It starts with our o-line," Beavon said of the win. "Our o-line plays so well. They block so well. We had probably one of the longest possessions I've seen in Franklin [history]. We just kept running the ball down their throats. We don't do anything without these guys."
Indeed, Franklin's highly-touted OL, featuring stars like junior Fisher Anderson and senior Jason Amsler, bulldozed for guys like Bryce Sparks (113 yards on 17 attempts and a score), D.J. Durham (64 yards) and others to set the tone on the ground for the team.
"Every facet of the game was working," said Amsler, who sidestepped taking full credit for the win "Our kicking game, our defense had two picks, we had our run game, [Beavon] was connecting with the receivers. When that happens, you win."
Franklin got on the board midway through the first with a 28-yard field goal from A.J. Elliott, but Wade found Caleb Jolley for an 8-yard touchdown with 3:10 to go in the first to get the Spartans ahead 7-3.
Rather than let the dangerous Wade begin to crank up the momentum, Franklin held firm. Admiral Nick Gaca snagged an uncharacteristic pick from Wade in enemy territory and the offense got Elliott in range again for a 24-yard kick and a 7-6 score with 5:37 to half.
Before half, Wade threw another pick, and Franklin's Isaiah Domingo snagged the ball and returned it for a nice gain into Summit's side of the field.
Beavon got them into the red zone, and Carson Garner cashed it in right before at the final horn to get Franklin out in front 13-7.
In the second half, Wade returned with a vengeance, scrambling for a 46-yard touchdown with 8:40 in the third to get the game tied at 13 (a two-point conversion failed).
But, like they did earlier, Franklin answered as Sparks broke tackles to sprint down the field for a 48-yard score to get Franklin ahead 20-13 with 7:55 to go.
Wade's already completed an improbable comeback this year against Independence, so what's a touchdown margin? Just a few plays later, Wade rushed for a gorgeous run for 73 yards into the end zone to make it 20 all with 7:39 to go in the third.
Franklin's performance after that was all about taking time off the clock and making the Spartans work for it on every possession.
"That offensive line definitely took over the fourth quarter," Webb said.
The Admirals did complete an incredibly lengthy drive later in the game, with the team's rushing attack sanding time off the clock and the team scoring its game-deciding touchdown with 3:20 to go.
Beavon hit wideout Carson Repass, also having a fine season, on a 15-yard pass to get Franklin out in front for the final time, 27-20.
Summit tried to get down the field to tie it, but Wade was just short on a fourth and two to give the Admirals possession on a change of down with just about two minutes to go. They ran the clock out on possessions and came away victorious.
"Anytime you get a win in this county, it's huge," Webb said.
The Spartans move to 3-1 on the year, with Wade finishing this one with 195 yards rushing and two touchdowns to go with 36 in the air and a score.
Summit head coach Brian Coleman said, though it was a loss, he's glad his team was able to learn from a physical outfit like Franklin.
"We needed that," Coleman said. "We needed to see what we have in the fourth quarter when they're driving it down our throats. We needed to see who's going to step up, who's not, and we needed games like that that don't hurt us in the region."
Summit has a bye week next week due to its game with Overton being cancelled, and Franklin will head home to take on region foe Independence.