The Centennial Cougars and Franklin Rebels mini-series came to a conclusion Friday night in the first game of the season for both teams.
The two played each other to end the regular season in 2014 (FHS won 37-34) before meeting again the following week in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs (CHS won 28-23), meaning it was the third game in a row for Franklin to face Centennial, and the third game in five for CHS.
Centennial handled its cross-town rivals in the finale 20-0 behind a stingy defense, making it the third time in school history the Cougars beat the Rebels in football.
“I think we have one of the best defenses in the state of Tennessee,” Cougars quarterback junior Blake Lovell said. “I love knowing the fact that we can go up there and each drive doesn’t have to be perfect because our defense can back us up.”
Franklin was only able to muster four first downs and 48 yards of offense in the game.
Every time it seemed as if the momentum was going to swing in the Rebels’ favor, the Cougars came up with a bigger play on defense, whether it was a sack, fumble recovery or interception.
“I was really pleased with our effort,” FHS head coach Donnie Webb said. “Bottom line, they made some plays and we didn’t. We just have to make those plays.”
Franklin looked good at times on defense as well, holding the high-powered CHS running game to 117 yards on 33 rushes, but, as Webb said, they couldn’t find a key play on offense the entire game.
“I was really concerned about them just running over us,” stated Webb. “I thought we played some good defense.”
Texas A&M commit Tyrel Dodson got the Cougars started late in the first quarter with a 1-yard rush up the middle to open the score 6-0. He finished with 62 yards on eight carries.
After FHS failed to capitalize on a Carter Bowman interception late in the second quarter, CHS marched down the field 86 yards behind a big 34-yard pass from Lovell to Devious Christmon. An 11-yard rushing score from Lovell and a two-point conversion made the game 14-0 at half.
Lovell added a 35-yard passing score to Austin Waddell in the third quarter for the final score.
The Cougars came into the first game of the year with a lot of expectations behind a crop of returning talent. The one spot where there were some question marks was quarterback.
There was a battle between senior Tristan Pisacane and Lovell, a Spring Hill transfer, for the starting QB spot going into the first week.
Lovell got the start Friday and may have locked himself into the position. He threw for 162 yards on 10-of-17 passing with a touchdown and an interception.
“Coach called really good pays, and we executed them perfectly,” Lovell said.
Starting at a new high school in as a junior can be hard enough, let alone learning a whole new offense and being named the starter for Week 1. Lovell said his teammates have made the transition easy, though.
“I love my teammates; my teammates, when I came in they respected me, they showed me love and we’re like brothers. I love it.”
Franklin will be looking for its first win of the season next Friday at home against Riverdale. The Warriors beat Ootlewah 9-5 Friday.
“Teams get better in their second ballgame,” Webb said. “We’re excited to get ready to prepare for Riverdale.”
Centennial’s rivalry week continues, as the Cougars travel to rival Independence next Friday. The Eagles throttled Brentwood High 47-17 Friday night.