MADISONVILLE — Defense wins championships.
Thomas Box returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown, his second pick-six of the game, to allow Franklin to break free of the Crockett Bulldogs and finished off a 76-50 Class 3A Division II championship victory Friday at Mustang Stadium.
The wild win put Franklin (14-0) into the Lions’ third semifinal game in school history, joining the 1972 and ’78 squads. The Lions will play East Bernard Friday at Cypress’ Berry Center. Crockett’s season ended with a 10-4 mark.
Rodrick Green rushed 17 times for 214 yards and three touchdowns for Franklin. Clayton Rosprim carried 10 times for 214 yards, capping off the scoring with a 24-yard run with 30 seconds left in the game.
A pair of onside kicks kept Crockett in it and kept the ball out of Franklin’s hands much of the fourth quarter. Case Robinson threw a trio of scoring passes on fourth-down plays. He and Lucky Daniels teamed up on four touchdown passes.
Robinson’s touchdown pass to Xavion Dickson across the middle cut the score to 55-50 with 9:00 left in a game where Franklin once held a 41-9 lead. The Lions followed with an eight-play 53-yard drive that concluded with Bobby Graham breaking free for a seven-yard score with 4:32 left.
For the game, Robinson connected on 28 of 51 passes for 471 yards but was picked off four times, after throwing four total interceptions this season prior to Friday’s game. Daniels caught nine passes and netted 184 yards. Dixon added nine receptions for 171.
Franklin used 12 different ball carries, picking up 29 first downs. The Lions carried 58 times for 636 yards.
Crockett got as close as 48-44 when Robinson hit Daniels for a 36-yard with 10:30 left in the game.
It took the Lions two plays to respond. Rosprim powered into a 59-yard run and Green carried Bulldog defenders with him on a drive that lasted 30 second, giving Franklin a 55-44 lead.
Franklin grabbed the advantage during a second quarter where the teams combined for 50 points. Crockett started the quarter at the Lions’ 3-yard line but Franklin sophomore defensive lineman Casey Phillips stepped in front of a pass from Robinson for an interception, the first of two in the opening half for the Lions.
Franklin drove 86 yards in four plays, taking a lead the Lions never lost on Brandon Graham’s 24-yard run up the middle.
The Lions added another score on defense. Box picked off Robinson’ pass and followed good blocking down the left sideline on a 38-yard interception return.
Green scored twice in the quarter, on runs of 25 and nine yards, the second of which came after a recovery of a pooch kick. It upped Franklin’s lead to 41-9.
But Crockett wasn’t going quietly as Daniels scored three first-half touchdowns on receptions, two of which came on fourth-down passes from Robinson.
The first, which opened the game’s scoring, came on the Bulldogs’ first possession, when Robinson dropped a perfect pass to the left side of the end zone and Daniels caught the 43-yard score despite good coverage from Jacob Dorsett. The last was a 64-yard strike on fourth-and-18 with 52 seconds left until halftime. That capped a scoring drive that started on Javon Colter’s fumble recovery. Robinson also hit Daniels while rolling to his right, with Daniels making a one-handed grab.