St. Michael notched 21 points before the midway point of the first quarter and it appeared the Warriors were just warming up on a chilly evening.
However, Franklin Parish’s bruising rushing attack heated up scoring 26 fourth-quarter points to defeat St. Michael 56-35 in Class 4A playoff action.
Patriots running back Noble Johnson proved a wrecking ball throughout tallying 228 yards on 34 carries and three touchdowns, with two coming in the final period as Franklin Parish (7-4) pulled away.
Up until the fourth quarter, the game featured four lead changes, and it appeared it would go down to the wire. However, an interception by safety Alex Ruch of Franklin Parish quarterback Steven Williams was nullified on a roughing the passer penalty.
The mistake proved costly, and too much for the Warriors (7-4) to overcome as Franklin retained possession and fed the ball the rest of the way to Johnson who later scored from 2 yards out.
The Warriors also had no answer for Williams, who rushed for 152 yards on 15 rushes. He also passed for 198 yards, completing 6 of 10 attempts.
The win gave Franklin Parish, a school formed in 2003, its first playoff win.
“The turnovers dictated this game because offensively both teams were playing each other so close,” Patriots coach Barry Sebren said.
“At first I was irate when we got down 21-0, but I thought to myself that I had to set the example to these kids of persevering under adversity, and they really responded. Our kids reacted exactly the way we needed to do in facing the setback that occurred getting down so fast in this game.”
The second half began much like the first with the Warriors taking a 35-28 lead with 4:36 left in the third. The first half ended knotted up at 28.
However, Johnson and his teammates rumbled back on the ensuing series pulling within one 35-34 with 1:44 remaining in the third.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Patriots took control for good, retaking the lead 42-35 on a 4-yard TD run by Marquise Hillman.
It was the next offensive series the Warriors believed they had recaptured momentum as Ruch slipped in front of a Patriots receiver and snared what was then thought a key interception.
Franklin retained possession on the penalty, however, and five plays later Johnson plunged in from 2 yards taking the lead for good, and control of the game the rest of the way 50-35.
St. Michael, reeling from the earlier setback, fumbled the ball back as Warriors quarterback Brandon Field completed a nice scrambling throw to wide receiver Christian Fry, who was unable to hang on as he attempted to power his way downfield.
Franklin added one more TD and ran out the clock on its ensuing possession.
Franklin started cold, but heated up with 22 answered points of his own. Williams notched first-half TDs of 12 and 16 yards and accounted for 184 yards passing in the first half.