BY CORY WOODROOF
Of the four big rivalry games in Williamson County football, the Battle of the Woods between Brentwood and Franklin will always be the biggest.
But the Battle of Franklin isn’t too far behind.
Franklin and Centennial’s annual divisional fight always carries the requisite emotion and anticipation, but this year’s might have a few more chips on the table.
Both the Rebels and Cougars sit at 3-3, having their share of tough losses and big wins. Both teams have units that sing (Franklin’s defense, Centennial’s offense) and are known to struggle at times (Franklin’s offense, sans RB Matt Gaca, Centennial’s defense). Both teams have a shot at the third and fourth postseason slots in the district (Brentwood and Ravenwood should punch those first two slots in soon).
So, laying claim over bragging rights to who’s the best team this rivalry could carry a lot more than usual.
It could determine which of these teams could make the playoffs.
Centennial taking season one step at a time
For the Centennial Cougars, they’re taking things one step at a time as 2018 enters its final stretch.
The team coming off a last-second, emotional win over Riverdale and take home this year’s Kriesky Bowl (Centennial coach Matt and Riverdale coach Will are brothers).
“That was a must-win,” Kriesky said, noting that both teams tend to get appropriately elevated for those meetings and that he hopes that win helps build some confidence going ahead.
From here on, they’ve still got Franklin, Brentwood, Summit and Hillsboro to deal with.
Outside of this year’s Battle having a direct ramifications on both teams’ postseason hopes, the game takes special meaning for both coaches.
Franklin’s Donnie Webb coached Kriesky in high school, which pits the coach and former player against each other.
“It’s a huge rivalry, and [our relationship] just adds more emotion to the game,” Kriesky said.
Though, mentee has nothing but glowing things to say about mentor.
“[Coach Webb] is somebody I looked up to in high school, and I continue to whenever I got into this profession,” Kriesky said. “Coach Webb means a lot to me and my brother both. He’s probably one of the best around. He’s more than a coach. I think the guys at Franklin know that.”
Life will be easier for the Cougars if starting quarterback Grayson Marcel can return to the lineup after being out with injury, though freshman reserve Cannon Plowman was able to help pull off the win last Friday.
“There are not many freshmen that can go in and compete at the 6A level, especially at Riverdale, like he did” Kriesky said.
The Cougars know what the future could hold for them depending how this one goes, though if you ask Kriesky, his team’s only focusing on the Battle at hand.
“We’re focusing on Franklin, and nothing but Franklin,” he said.
Franklin riding roller coaster season
It’s been a roller coaster season for the Franklin Rebels, who have had enough emotional outcomes for one season.
The team’s come close to taking down district powerhouses like Brentwood and Ravenwood (like, within a play), and is a misstep against Indy away from really making noise in the region. But, now, they’re 0-3 in 6A, and need the Battle of Franklin to tip its cap to the namesake to stay alive for November ball.
To Coach Webb, it’s all a matter of perspective for how his young team is doing.
“I think the expectations of our football team, leading from last year to what was happening to our football team this year, were probably not very high, as a whole” Webb said. “Then, we came out of the gate…expectations changed because we played so well…even in two losses.
“Then, when we go against Independence, Independence had been struggling. They show up, play a really, really good game. Nothing against them, I think we played our worst, and it was like hitting a wall. What I’m most proud about is we turn around and beat a really, really good Hendersonville team, and beat them soundly.”
The team has jumped between a win and a loss all season long on the schedule. Can they string together two consecutive wins for the first time this year?
“I think we’re showing up, going to work every day,” Webb said, noting particularly the leadership and performance of senior RB Matt Gaca, who the offense flows through, and the team’s strong defense.
Despite the looming rivalry, one big point of emphasis remains for Webb and his program.
“We’ve got to get a win inside our county, because we haven’t had one in two years now,” Webb said. “It wouldn’t matter what color that other person’s jersey is, we need to win a game inside Williamson County.”
Though, to Webb, his guys will need no extra motivation when Centennial stops by Friday.