After a slow start, Nolensville High School remained undefeated by besting the Franklin High School Admirals 30-20 on the road Friday night.
The Knights (9-0) allowed Franklin to jump out to a 13-0 lead midway through the second quarter, before outscoring the Admirals 30-7 the rest of the game.
The momentum changed in a three-play span. First, senior quarterback Coby Walton hit senior wide receiver Chance Fitzgerald for a 41-yard touchdown at the 5:06 mark of the second quarter. Then, Derrick Burroughs recovered a Franklin fumble, which set up the chance for the Knights to take a shot down field, and they did.
Nolensville executed a double-pass from Walton to Fitzgerald to Eric Harper for a 46-yard touchdown, which gave the Knights the lead 14-13, and they never relinquished it.
“After a turnover we just wanted to take a shot and try to get a big play,” Nolensville head coach Paul Derrick said. "It just worked out for us.”
Later, with 4:40 left to play in the third quarter, Walton found Fitzgerald again for a 21-yard touchdown to make the score 21-13.
Fitzgerald, who picked up a lot of FBS and Power-Five university interest on the recruiting trail recently, finished the game with nine receptions for 126 yards and three total touchdowns.
Early in the fourth quarter, a 48-yard connection from Walton to Dylan Northcutt gave NHS the ball inside the Admiral five-yard line, which led to a four-yard touchdown run by senior running back Samson Johnson. The score put the Knights up 28-13.
Johnson finished with 10 rushes for 65 yards and the score. Zion Tamaska led the way for the Knights on the ground with 11 carries for 90 yards.
Franklin, however controlled the game on the ground. The Admirals ran the ball for 236 of their 302 total yards, mostly thanks to Rocco Pania’s 112-yard-and-one-touchdown performance along with Cooper Jordan’s 110-yard effort. The pair combined for 35 carries on the evening.
“Their record was 0-8, but they did not look like an 0-8 football team,” Derrick said. “I have a lot of respect for Coach Melton and his team. They came in with a good game plan, and we had to fight through some things early on in the game. We talk about adversity, and having it in other games this year maybe helped us tonight, and hopefully it will help us going forward.”
The adversity started when Sean Gacca intercepted Walton on a third-down play to open the second quarter, which eventually led to a Lucas Young 19-yard touchdown reception to give the admirals the 7-0 lead.
Another interception, this one by Pania, led to a seven-yard run by sophomore quarterback Brewer Wilson to make the score 13-0 with 6:58 left to play in the second quarter.
Jordan and Pania gave the Knights problems throughout the game, however, they did get one major stop of Pania after a punt pinned the Admirals inside the five yard line. Pania got stopped by the Nolensville defense in the end zone for a safety to make the score 30-13.
Derrick praised Franklin’s game plan and his team’s ability to respond.
“They were physical upfront and played hard, and we knew that was going to be the case,” he said. “I think defensively we were a little too aggressive early on in the game. Late in the first half, and early in the second half, we started playing more Base, and I think our kids just started to settle in and started playing a little bit better.”
Pania tacked on a one-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make the final score a bit closer. The big plays, and the second half defense, proved to be too much for the winless Admirals.
Derrick’s team, now 9-0 for the first time in school history, looks to finish the regular season perfect next week.
“Our goal is to be 10-0. We are 9-0 now. Nolensville has never had a 10-0 team, so I think those are some things the team wants to accomplish.”
Nolensville closes out the regular season with a trip to Franklin County High School next week. The Admirals will host Summit High School (1-8), as both teams looked for a region win to close out the 2022 campaign