FRANKLIN – It was a perfect night for football at Faught Stadium on Saturday night with the Franklin football team hosting the Butler Bulldogs for their 2017 home opener.
The Grizzlies (0-2) played the Division I FCS non-scholarship Bulldogs (1-1) tough all night long, but were unable to snap a five-game slide against their foes from the Circle City. Franklin dropped a 43-24 decision to the Bulldogs, closing out a very tough non-conference schedule that will have the Grizzlies ready to go for conference play next week.
“We’re down in a few ways because we hung with them tonight,” Head coach Mike Leonard said after the game. “But I told our guys after the game that we’ve faced adversity and two really tough teams to open the year. That was by design because we wanted our guys to face adversity. We showed some really good things tonight and we feel we’re setting ourselves up to do some great things this year.”
Disaster struck for the Grizzlies on the opening kickoff as the ball scooted past the Franklin kick returners down to the two. Franklin would start the drive on their own five and three plays in, Burton was sacked in the end zone for a safety. To compound things, Butler marched right down the field on their first possession for a touchdown, making it 9-0 early.
The Grizzlies would respond on their second drive, marching 80 yards on eight plays with Burton finding Alexander from 28 yards out to make it 9-6. Butler would counter on each of their next two drives with touchdowns, and they added a field goal early in the second quarter stretched the lead to 26-6.
Facing a growing deficit, the Grizzlies showed their teeth on the very next drive with Burton hitting Lee Wroblewski for a 43-yard score to cut the lead in half. FC would force a Bulldogs punt on the next drive and cut the lead to 26-16 after a Stephen Colligan field goal late in the second quarter.
But that’s as close as the Grizzlies would get as the Bulldogs added a touchdown before the break and another on the first drive of the second half, the latter capping a 12-play drive.
Alexander scored his second touchdown of the day, breaking two tackles on his way to an 81-yard TD that made it 40-24. But the Bulldogs used their efficient ground attack to wear out the clock, as each of their last two drives ran at least seven minutes off the game clock.
Burton finished the night going 19-for-34 for 329 yards, three scores and one interception. Alexander hauled in four passes for a team-high 124 yards and two scores. Lee Wroblewski grabbed six passes for another 119 yards and one touchdown.
Burton also led the Grizzlies on the ground, picking up 45 yards with his feet. Jacob Earl set a new career-high with 40 yards rushing on eight carries.
The Bulldogs held a 501-398 advantage in total yards gained. Duvantae Lane finished with 121 yards on 26 carries while Will Marty went 21-for-30 for 313 yards and three scores. Butler also controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for 44:21 on the night.
Franklin will be back at Faught Stadium next week for their Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) opener and the annual Tribute to Service Day against Defiance on Saturday, Sept. 16. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.