CINCINNATI, Ohio - It is officially the week that every Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football player of the last decade has looked forward to... It's Franklin week. This week the Mount's football team will head to perennial HCAC power Franklin and put their unblemished record on the line. The game will take place at Faught Stadium in Franklin, Indiana and will kickoff at 1:30 PM.
Last season the Lions and Grizzlies each earned a share of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship a season ago, which they also shared with Hanover. Franklin has been the class of the conference for more than a decade. Prior to Franklin's run, The Mount won three consecutive HCAC crowns. As the HCAC enters its 16th season of football, there has never been a year where MSJ or Franklin did not at least share the championship. This matchup is truly pits the two heavyweights of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference against each other, and should go a long way in determining who wins the HCAC this season.
The Lions come into the game as the only team in the league without a loss this season. They have a 2-0 record after a week one 41-27 win over Geneva and a week three 34-7 win over Anderson. They continue to ride the right arm of senior quarterback Chaiten Tomlin (Mt. Orab, Ohio/Western Brown). Tomlin comes into the game leading the HCAC in passing yards per game (347.5) which ranks him fifth in DIII. The Lions offense has struggled with their rushing attack a bit to open the season, although they got on track a bit last week against Anderson. Senior Michael Williamson (New Richmond, Ohio/New Richmond), led the way with three rushing touchdowns, his first three of the season. The rushing attack got a big boost from sophomore Elijah Bugg (Elyria, Ohio/Oberlin), who made the most of his limited carries. He carried the ball six times for 57 yards including an MSJ season long rush of 43 yards.
Offensively Tomlin will look to continue to spread the ball around quite well. A week ago he was able to connect with 10 different receivers in the win, with two different players catching touchdowns. Nick Murphy (Dawsonville, Ga./Dawson Co.) led the way with seven catches for 81 yards. Paul Minor (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central) and Jake Ayler (Milford, Ohio/Milford) each caught a touchdown pass, with Ayler's being his first touchdown of his career.
Defensively the Lions have been stout thus far this season. Geneva and their triple option found some success against the Lions in week one, but last week they completely shutdown Anderson. They were pitching a shutout until late in the game. After most of the starters had been removed from the game the defense did surrender a touchdown. The Lions forced four Anderson turnovers in the win, three interceptions and a fumble.
Franklin has traditionally been one of the better offenses in the nation, so the Lions defense will have their work cut out for them. Last week sophomore safety Payton Leugers (Goshen, Ohio/Goshen) led the with eight solo tackles and a pick. Franklin has traditionally been one of the stronger passing offenses in the nation, this year though they seem to be more reliant on the run game. This could be due to an apparent injury suffered by their starting quarterback. Braden Smith did not play a week ago, and again does not show up on the Franklin two-deep. While they do currently lead the HCAC in rushing yards per game (228.3), the Lions defense should be ready to stop the run.
The game is scheduled for a 1:30 PM kick off at Faught Stadium in Franklin, Indiana. If you cant make it out to the game follow along live at msjsports.com