TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It was the Thaddius Franklin show in the Capital City on Friday night.
Matter of fact Franklin was the man for all five scores that Chaminade-Madonna (12-2) put up on Friday night at Gene Cox Stadium against Florida High in the 2019 FHSAA Class 3A State Championship game.
In that 35-20 win over the Seminoles, the Lions put the weight of trying to win a third-consecutive state championship on the guy who has been their workhorse all year.
As a matter of fact, Franklin had 47 carries, 333 yards, and five touchdowns as the workhorse which broke Travis Henry’s record of 328 yards in the 1996 Class 3A State Championship for Frostproof. Franklin also broke Kelvin Taylor’s record of 44 carries in a state championship game in the 2010 Class 1B State Championship by carrying the ball 47 times on the night.
While this was a neutral site state championship game, the Seminoles were decidedly the home team, with a massive crowd of fans filling the bleachers while Chaminade brought a decent-sized crowd up from South Florida providing an electric atmosphere for both teams to compete in.
With the defending state champs got the ball first and drove right down the field for a score on their first drive with Franklin punching it in from the four-yard line to put the Lions up 7-0 thanks mostly to the previous carries Franklin had on the drive.
Now with the Seminoles having the ball for their first drive, the Lions defense, which came into the game with one of the best units in the state, showed why they were on their way to a third consecutive state championship, putting the pressure on to force a three-and-out on the drive.
With Chaminade-Madonna’s defense, there were constantly in the backfield during Florida High’s during the game, putting the pressure on quarterback Willie Taggart Jr. By the end of the night, the Lions defense had allowed only 259 yards of total offense which has been averaging 383 offensive yards per game.
Chaminade-Madonna would get up to 14-0 lead with 4:34 left in the first quarter thanks to another drive lead by Franklin who scored his second touchdown of the night from four yards out.
However, after that score, the Seminoles ordered up something that got the stadium rocking.
With the ball in hand, Taggart Jr. dropped an 80-yard dime pass to receiver Ahmari Harvey making to cut the Lions’ lead to 14-7 with 4:21 in the first quarter. The score seemingly had put to rest of any shot of Chaminade-Madonna trying to run away with things quickly.
And the momentum that was found on the second drive leading to a third drive after Jordan Gilley picked off a Brady Kelly pass, returning it to the Chaminade-Madonna 19. However, the momentum would be short-lived after failing to convert a fourth-down play to get the first down after having to back things up due to a penalty as the first quarter was coming to a close.
It wouldn’t take long again for Chaminade-Madonna to get the ball back in the hands of Franklin who busted off a 65-yard run in the opening minutes of the second quarter to set up his third touchdown of the night, a one-yard rush to put the Lions up 21-7 with 10:23 left in the first half.
From there Chaminade-Madonna and Florida High traded possessions to kill off the remainder of the second quarter clock and a 21-7 at the half.
In the second half, it appeared that things were going to get ugly pretty quickly after Florida High fumbled the ball away on their first possession of the half on an Alfred Menjor fumble that was recovered by Chaminade-Madonna’s Brian Dilworth at their own 37-yard line.
That fumble would set up Franklin’s fourth touchdown of the night, a 14-yard run up the gut to put the Lions up 28-7 with 9:22 left in the third quarter.
However, the Seminoles were in no mood of folding despite the turn of bad luck to open the second half.
Instead, they got to work.
First, a muffed punt return by Chaminade-Madonna started to turn things around for Florida High after the Lions had forced to punt on their next drive after Franklin’s fourth touchdown run. However, the Seminoles couldn’t find their way to the endzone after driving it down to the Lions’ 10-yard line.
After Chaminade-Madonna exchanged a punt forced by a Seminoles defensive stand that forced the Lions to go three-and-out, the Seminoles would find the green grass on the other side of the goal line on their next possession that carried over to the start of the fourth quarter thanks at 14-yards pass from Taggart Jr. to George Henderson to cut the lead down to a 28-14 score.
With another stand on defense forcing Chaminade-Madonna into their second straight three-and-out, the Seminoles got the ball back thanks to some plays made by Taggart Jr. that would be capped off by a 1-yard Menjor run to cut the lead down to 28-20 after an extra point by Brock Hickman hit the left upright with 8:31 left in the game.
However, all the newfound momentum would be zapped in a flash for Florida High as Chaminade-Madonna got the ball back and started to run down the clock with more Franklin carries that set up his fifth and final touchdown of the night on a 5-yard rush up the gut with 4:28 left to go in the game.
In the end, it was Chaminade-Madonna with their third straight state championship and Franklin setting two new records in an FHSAA State Championship game.
The feeling for Chaminade-Madonna head coach was pretty much simple.
“Happy and blessed,” Jones said. “I am happy for my coaches and my kids and this Chaminade institution.”
However, the feeling had not fully set in yet for Jones.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Jones said.
For Franklin, the feeling was pretty much left indescribable who had tears of emotion in his eyes after the game and being told he had set a rushing record for an FHSAA State Championship game.
“I don’t even know what to say. All I can do is thank my teammates and the coaches,” Franklin said.