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|Cougars falter in semis, finish solid season|
Franklin Academy's quest for a MAIS 8-man title this season ended in Meridian last Friday, as the third-ranked Cougars ran into a buzz saw in Russell Academy.
Much like Franklin Academy coach Doyle Hassell anticipated going into the contest, the Warriors' superior size and speed, along with flawless play on the field, proved to be the deciding factors.
"They were unlike any team we faced all season," Hassell said. "We have been able to basically do what we had wanted to offensively in most games, but these guys had athletes that could fly to the ball. Plus they had great depth. I can't see them losing."
Russell Academy (12-0) will play Calhoun Academy, Miss. (11-1) in the 8-man state title on Friday at Mississippi College. Calhoun beat Christian Collegiate, 36-30 last week to advance.
Russell Academy, ranked as one of the Top 100 8-Man teams in the country by most prep web sites, was able to fluster the a potent Cougar offense that averaged near 400 ypg. this season.
Russell Academy cornerback Ashton Temple intercepted Cougar senior Chris Hassell twice and caught two balls on offense for 74 yards and a touchdown, earning him player of the game honor by his coaches.
The two interceptions were the only thrown all season by Hassell. The senior finished 2-of-10 passing for 44 yards. Franklin Academy only had one turnover this year, a fumble, entering Friday's game with Russell.
"Those interceptions actually came on plays that have scored us touchdowns 99.9 percent of the time this year, he (Temple) just read it perfectly," coach Doyle Hassell said.
Russell built up a huge 41-0 lead by the end of the third quarter, before the Cougars late in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard run by Hunter Jones, making it a 41-6 final in favor of the Warriors.
"They were just the better team," coach Doyle Hassell said. "The loss certainly doesn't take away from what we accomplished this year, because I thought we made strides as a team. They kids really worked hard from the summer all the way up until now. We're looking forward to getting our chance next season. I'm proud of the boys."
Franklin Academy will host its annual athletic banquet later in the year honoring the 8-2 Cougars. Many Franklin Academy players are expected to be named to all-district and all-state teams. Those accolades will be announced after the banquet.
Photo Cutline: Franklin Academy RB Hunter Jones (22) dives for extra yardage last Friday against Russell Academy. Jones scored the Cougars only TD on a 24-yard run in the fourth quarter. (Photo by Laura W. Hassell)