No Argument: Benjamin Franklin is Elite

2 years ago Andrew Luberda 0

Last Friday night’s 3A Central Region football game at Benjamin Franklin High School between the No. 5-ranked Chargers and No. 4 Florence was arguably the biggest in the school’s brief history. There wasn’t, however, any argument afterwards where the Chargers’ 27 – 22 victory ranked in the history of the program.

“Yes, for sure,” Benjamin Franklin third-year head coach Dave Jefferies answered when asked if the win was his program’s biggest.

“We’re happy about how far we’ve come the last three years as a program,” he added. “Our kids have stepped up to the challenge and I’m so proud of them, knowing how far they’ve come.”

With the win over its region rival, Benjamin Franklin likely secures a top-four seed in the upcoming 3A state playoffs, which guarantees two home games, assuming a first-round victory.

“Our goal when we got here was to convince the kids that what we needed to do as a program was earn an 11th game,” Jefferies said. “Not only did we earn the 11th game, but we’ll be in a great position for it.”

Several Chargers’ players were honored before the game on Senior Night, many of them who were part of the program since starting at the school as eighth graders. Their final season is culminating with a first-ever playoff appearance.

The Chargers’ seniors.

“This means the world to us because of how far we’ve come,” senior lineman Brandon Teuscher told “To be able to see our hard work come to fruition is indescribable.”

The intrigue entering the game was the contrasting offensive styles of the teams – both extremely prolific – and which team’s defense could meet the challenge of limiting the other offense.

While both defenses did enough to be victorious, it was Benjamin Franklin’s that made a few more plays, beginning with a pair of first-quarter interceptions.

Junior Chandler Miles intercepted Florence quarterback Jared Wood’s pass on the Gophers’ opening possession. Miles then starred in the Chargers’ wing-style offense, running the ball down to the 27-yard line, where running mate Zach Jefferies would later score from for the game’s first touchdown. Miles two-point conversion gave his team an early 8 – 0 lead.

BFHS RB Chandler Miles (5) runs through the Florence defense on Friday night.

The teams exchanged touchdowns on their next two possessions, starting with Nolan Susel’s five-yard touchdown run and two-point PAT. Miles followed with 55-yard scoring run, and after Sean Crandall’s successful PAT kick, the Chargers reclaimed a 15 – 8 lead.

Benjamin Franklin defensive back Danner Bowen intercepted a second Florence pass attempt of the opening quarter, but the Gophers’ defense stopped the Chargers on a fourth-down play in the red zone.

The Gophers’ defense made a few plays that ended Chargers’ drives, giving its offense a chance to get its rhythm.

After a Chargers’ fumble near the goal line, Florence took a brief 16 – 15 lead on the legs of Susel, who followed a 50-yard run with a two-yard touchdown, his second of the game. Vonte’ Neal’s two-point PAT gave the Gophers their first lead.

BFHS sophomore RB Zach Jefferies runs for his first of two touchdowns during the first quarter of Friday’s game.

Jefferies second touchdown of the game, a two-yard run with 39 seconds remaining in the half allowed the Chargers to hold a 21 – 16 lead at halftime.

The opening drive of the second half started just like the first half, with an interception. This one by Susel, but the Gophers’ offense could not capitalize, the passing game remaining in a funk. Wood, who entered the game with 15 touchdown passes, was 8-of-19 for 98 yards. Only Susel, who ran for 141 yards in the game, was consistent throughout.

“We just didn’t get rolling and left too many plays on the field,” Florence head coach Scott Howard said afterwards. “We gave our offense two or three shots in the second half to score.”

Miles’ second touchdown of the game, a seven-yarder in the third quarter, extended the Chargers’ lead to 27 – 16.

Miles and Jefferies combined for 309 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the win.

“I think it was the best performance we’ve had all season,” Miles said about offense. “The line was blocking, the holes were opening, and our running game was amazing.”

Florence senior RB Nolan Susel (29) “is the best 3A running back in the state,” according to Chargers’ head coach Dave Jefferies.

Susel’s third touchdown of the game in the opening minute of the fourth quarter pulled the Gophers within five points, 27 – 22, but that’s as close as they would get. There were other chances for Florence to take the lead, but the Chargers’ defense stymied each late-game threat, capped off by Teuscher’s sack on the Gophers’ final drive.

“We started to contain the run a little bit better in the second half,” Teuscher said. “Ultimately, our defense showed up to play when we needed it most.”

Added Jefferies:  “The best thing about tonight is we made a few mistakes, but we managed to make up for the mistakes we made,” recalling the first-half fumble near the goal line. “The challenge (Friday night) was beating a team that is one of the best in the state.”

Despite Friday’s result, the Gophers learned something that can benefit them going forward.

“Our kids now know when you play good teams it’s the little things that matter,” Howard said. “One or two plays per game can affect the outcome, and that’s what (Friday night) came down to.”

The Chargers expect stiff competition in the playoffs, but after winning their eighth-straight game – the most recent against another state title contender in Florence – they know what it takes to win at the highest level.

“No team, no matter its record, is just going to roll over and let you win,” said Jefferies, whose team travels to Globe for the regular-season finale. “We have to earn every win we get and that’s the plan for next week before we get ready for that game 11.”

Up next:  Benjamin Franklin at Globe and Florence at Coolidge on Oct. 27. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m.