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Tornadoes Spoil Royals’ Dream Year

  • Mascoma’s Justin Marsh (10) walks away after Franklin’s Kody Benwell, back left, scored a touchdown during yesterday’s NHIAA D-VI championship game.<br/><br/>Jeffrey Porter photograph

    Mascoma’s Justin Marsh (10) walks away after Franklin’s Kody Benwell, back left, scored a touchdown during yesterday’s NHIAA D-VI championship game.

    Jeffrey Porter photograph Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mascoma’s Mike Seiffert, on ground, recovers a fumble by Franklin’s Kody Benwell, second from left.<br/><br/>Jeffrey Porter photograph

    Mascoma’s Mike Seiffert, on ground, recovers a fumble by Franklin’s Kody Benwell, second from left.

    Jeffrey Porter photograph Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mascoma’s Justin Marsh (10) walks away after Franklin’s Kody Benwell, back left, scored a touchdown during yesterday’s NHIAA D-VI championship game.<br/><br/>Jeffrey Porter photograph
  • Mascoma’s Mike Seiffert, on ground, recovers a fumble by Franklin’s Kody Benwell, second from left.<br/><br/>Jeffrey Porter photograph

Hanover — If Mascoma High’s first visit to the NHIAA Division VI football finals didn’t net a championship yesterday, at least it yielded something that could serve the Royals for many years to come.

A rival.

Fueled by two-touchdown second halves from running backs Korey Parent and Kody Benwell, second-ranked Franklin rumbled to a 42-22 win over the top-seeded Royals at Hanover High’s Merriman-Branch Field. Parent finished with a game-high 159 yards on the ground, and Benwell added another 119 in support. The win gave Franklin its fifth state football title and its first since 2008.

The Golden Tornadoes (9-2) ran for just 78 first-half yards, yet held a 15-14 halftime edge. Riding its two backs and a physical line, Franklin rolled up 232 yards on the ground in the second half and gradually pulled away from the Royals (8-3).

“I’m happy and disappointed at the same time,” third-year Mascoma coach Ray Kershaw said. “The kids started the game off really good, we scored really quick, but we had four or five turnovers. We shot ourselves in the foot with that. It’s kinda hard to win games like that when you have that many turnovers.”

Technically speaking, Mascoma fumbled the ball away just twice, but the Royals also turned the football over on downs three times in their half of midfield in the second half. With short yards to cover, Parent and Benwell wore Mascoma’s defense out.

Franklin also ran on the fuel of its 26-13 season-opening loss to the Royals, which led coach Greg Husband to add an overloaded offensive line to the Tornadoes’ plans in the weeks afterward. Franklin employed the scheme on about half of its snaps, finding success running behind it and throwing away from it.

“We saw that we moved the ball well last time, but we made mistakes; we did that again today, but not as much,” Husband said. “We felt we could move the ball. The biggest thing was trying to keep their offense off the field, because they have a very good offense.

“They’re powerful; they’ve scored a lot of points this year. We really haven’t. So for us to put up that many, that’s a big day for us.”

If Franklin had its fuel from the season opener, the Royals — particularly the seniors — burned on long-term memory. Husband-led teams ran up a 71-0 score to end their year as freshmen and followed that up with a 60-0 beatdown their sophomore campaigns. Given the closeness of September’s encounter and the relatively equal size of the lines, something more competitive was bound to occur. And it did.

Mascoma took the opening kickoff and rumbled 53 yards on 10 plays to start the scoring. Junior Kyle Kosiorek (26 carries, 128 yards) took a handoff from wingback Steven Griswold on a scissors play, slicing through Franklin for the touchdown and ensuing conversion run less than four minutes into the contest.

The defenses took over, but the Tornadoes slowly gained better field position with each exchange. Franklin finally broke through with 5:44 left in the half: Throwing away from the overloaded line, quarterback Bruce Carey connected with split end Jake Jameson, who squirmed through the arms of Mascoma’s Zach Warner and John Daley for a 26-yard TD. Jameson’s conversion run tied the game at 8-8.

“A lot of times, teams will overload to our overload side, and we’ll run back to the weak,” Husband said. “Mascoma did a great job; they did some adjustments to it, stuffed it. … We were lucky and got a pass out of it.”

Kosiorek gave the Royals the lead again three minutes later, capping a 63-yard march from 3 yards out for a 14-8 advantage. Franklin resorted to trickery for its halftime lead: Carey flipped a pitch to Jameson, who hit junior Brandon Butterworth on a 35-yard touchdown option pass. Butterworth’s extra-point kick put the Tornadoes ahead to stay.

“Typically, we play better in the second half than we do the first half,” Husband said. “I told the defense at halftime if (the Royals) don’t score again, we can’t lose.”

True, but Mascoma had its chances.

Marching deep into Franklin territory early in the third quarter, Warner dropped a snap that the Tornadoes’ Nate Grevior recovered at the Franklin 29-yard line. The Tornadoes returned the favor a few minutes later as Kosiorek stripped Jameson at the Mascoma 4, with middle linebacker Mike Seiffert pouncing on the ball.

The Royals couldn’t make any ground against a stiffening Franklin defense, getting a 40-yard punt from Seiffert to set the Tornadoes up at the Mascoma 46.

Parent and Benwell took turns running through and around the Mascoma defense, with Benwell’s 1-yard plunge capping the short drive for a 22-14 lead with 14.8 seconds left in the third.

“What do you expect from the two best teams in the division?” Mascoma senior tight end-defensive end Chris Sanborn said. “Two real good teams, both big and physical. They’ve got some hard-hitting kids; we’ve got some hard-hitting kids. It’s football. That’s the fun of it.”

For the Royals and their fervent followers, the fun gradually ebbed over the final 12 minutes.

Franklin easily sniffed out a fake punt attempt from Seiffert, tackling him at the Mascoma 39 and scoring on a 30-yard Benwell romp two plays later.

Another turnover on downs led to a 38-yard TD dash from Parent.

Seiffert closed the deficit to 36-22 on a 5-yard dive with 4:32 to play, and Kosiorek forced his second fumble of he day, stripping Benwell at the Mascoma 24 a half-minute later. A holding penalty and a sack of Warner led to another turnover on downs, and Parent scored from the 9 with 1:53 left to seal the deal for Franklin.

“We were just able to control the outside and control that middle, and we were able to shut them down right off,” Kershaw said. “But as the game went on, the kids were getting frustrated. They weren’t 100 percent focused, they were letting up a bit, and (Franklin) was able to starting moving the ball.”

Some in the Mascoma throng haven’t forgotten 71-0 and 60-0; some in a packed Merriman-Branch grandstand hollered the memory in the Royals’ direction, meaning to motivate.

Sanborn didn’t need the reminder; beating Franklin to open the season was ample ammunition, albeit not enough for a repeat victory.

“The first game of the season, when we came out and beat them, it was just incredible to know that we’ve overcome them,” Sanborn said.

“When I heard that we were going to play them in the final, I was just ecstatic with joy that we were going to get a shot at them again. But it just didn’t come together.”

That’s OK. The better to fuel the fire the next time these two rivals collide.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.