DICKSON, TN – Emotions ran high on the hill Friday night, as the Dickson County Cougars (3-7, 0-5) lost their sixth straight on senior night to the Franklin Rebels (6-4, 2-3).
Dickson County came out with a competitive attitude, holding the Rebels to a scoreless first quarter. However, a Gage Pontremoli interception on a deep ball gave Franklin the ball with a short field, and they capitalized as senior running back Matt Gaca opened up the scoring with a touchdown from 1 yard out with 6:47 left in the second quarter.
Gaca doubled the lead for the Rebels on their next possession, this time from 6 yards to make it 14-0 with 3:26 left in the first half. The running back carried the ball 22 times for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“The league that we play in, the offenses are so dynamic” said Dickson County assistant coach Chuck Daniel, “and Franklin is in the same boat.
“He (Gaca) gets hit at three yards and gets off the pile, and it’s a seven yard gain.”
The Cougars were able to move the ball at times in the first half, but struggled to get on the board against a defense that has totaled 23 sacks on the season and has held opponents to just 16 points per game. A 30-yard field goal from Franklin kicker Ian Burr made the score 17-0 at halftime.
The theme of the first half carried into the second, Dickson County held Franklin to a three-and-out in the opening possession of the third quarter, but had to punt it right back to the Rebels. Franklin responded, with quarterback Josh Nichols hitting junior wide receiver Chancellor Bright in stride in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown, making the score 24-0 with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter.
After the Bright touchdown, the Cougar offense seemed to kick in to gear, marching down the field and getting in the end zone for the first time since September 21 as Darian Burns scored his 24th career touchdown from 3 yards out to bring the score to 24-7 with 1:53 left in the third quarter. Burns was the Manhattan Trophies Player of the Game, the senior finished with 15 rushes for 43 yards and a touchdown, and a fumble recovery on defense in his final game.
“Darian is a rock.” Said Daniel, “our kids know they can count on him. Our coaches know they can count on him.
“He’s one of those guys that you wish you had about 50 of those on your football team, and if you did you would never have any worries as a coach. Who ever has raised that young man has done an unbelievable job, and he has done an unbelievable job of being raised.”
Dickson County was able to get another turnover in the fourth quarter as a shotgun snap soared over Nichols’ head and Burns recovered, but the Cougars were unable to turn it into points and the final score from The Hill was 24-7, dropping Dickson County’s final 2018 record to 3-7. 13 seniors were honored Friday night, playing their final game in a Dickson County jersey.
“It’s a good group, very respectful kids” said Daniel, “it comes down to wins and losses, but at the same time, speaking as a dad, you like to work with those kids that are loyal, going to be there, and you can depend on them.
“It’s a great bunch, and I guess a positive is, you know for me anyway, I get to still see them in the hallway. I got a few of them in class, so moving forward I get to still be a part of their lives.”
Franklin improved to 6-4 with the win, and stamped their ticket to the playoffs, getting some help from Brentwood beating Centennial at home in the final seconds.