Titans claim Class D title
FRANKLINVILLE — In a fight for a sectional championship, the key to success is ball possession and not turning the ball over.
On Friday night, the Franklinville/Ellicottville Titans won both of those categories, leading to a win.
The Titans dropped the Salamanca Warriors 21-7 thanks to dominating the clock with their unstoppable do-it-all threat Logan Frank, while also intercepting Salamanca quarterback Lucas McKenna twice in the second quarter to build their lead and clinch the championship.
“It’s such a great feeling,” said Titans coach Jason Marsh. “We came up short here last year and our seniors put in their head that they wouldn’t let that happen again. Credit to them, they’re a great bunch of kids, on top of all the adversity they fought through because of the pandemic. We had no weight room or no preseason training.”
The tone for the game was set on the opening drive for the Titans, even though they didn’t score. Frank carried the ball five straight times out of the shotgun, good for 26 yards, then later completed a pass to Blake Frank, setting up a first-and-goal at the Salamanca 5. However, penalties derailed them to a fourth-and-long, which they were unable to convert. But Frank and the Titans offense had already set the tone, eating up 8:30 of the opening quarter.
“Even though we came up short, it gave us confidence,” Marsh said. “It showed us that the things we prepared for worked. Our line moved bodies. We got held back by penalties but it gave us a good feeling. The kids didn’t panic.”
When Salamanca got the ball, at first-and-10 at their own 30, a 2-yard carry was followed by the first of McKenna’s interceptions on a tipped ball over the middle, giving the Titans the ball back after just two plays.
The Titans killed the rest of the quarter, holding the ball for 11 of the 12 minutes and running all but two plays on offense. And two plays into the second quarter, Frank rushed in his first touchdown of the evening, from 26 yards out. Frank, who ended the first quarter with 48 yards on the ground, was now in complete control, giving his team a 6-0 lead.
Salamanca got the ball back again, and was able to make one big play when McKenna found Harley Hoag for 24 yards and the Warriors’ first first down of the game, but three plays after that, with nine minutes to go in the first half, McKenna threw another interception, this time to Marsh, setting the Titans up once again in good field position, at the Salamanca 14. And in just four plays, Frank was in the end zone once again, this time on a keeper from the goal line. Now with 7:10 to go in the half, Frank had two touchdowns and his team had a 14-0 lead.
Following a Salamanca punt on a drive derailed by penalties, the Titans ran a truck play that saw Lucas Marsh complete a pass to Logan Grinols for 12 yards. Then, Frank ripped off a 21-yard carry, and after a false start, Frank found Clayton Rowland for 40 yards and another score, giving Frank a passing touchdown to go with his two on the ground, and extending the lead to 21-0.
“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments,” Marsh said. “I know that’s cliche but that’s what our kids did today.”
The score would hold into halftime, though Salamanca threatened at the end of the half, getting to the Titans 27-yard line before the clock ran out. That was Salamanca’s first trip into Titans territory.
In the second half, Salamanca began to threaten. Though it punted on its first drive to open the half, the Warriors defense stepped up. First, Frank made one of his only mistakes, throwing an interception and setting the Warriors up with an extra possession. They scored on two plays, when Trevor Ellis took the ball 35 yards to the house, cutting the score to 21-7.
On the following possession, Frank completed a pass to Marsh, who then fumbled the ball in his own territory. The Titans had now turned the ball over on two straight possessions, giving the Warriors a path back into the game.
“You always say if the ball is in our hands, they can’t score.” Marsh said. “We tried to keep it in our hands and minimize their opportunities.”
For how good the Titans were on both sides of the ball in the first half, the defense now needed to bail out the offense with the Warriors gaining momentum.
Fortunately for the Titans, it did.
The Titans held the Warriors to 9 yards on four plays, forcing a turnover on downs with just over a minute to go in the third quarter. Marsh said that the defensive stop was indicative of how they’ve played all year.
“They were definitely gaining momentum,” Marsh said. “We didn’t produce on our drives, and they forced turnovers. Momentum started to swing but our defense has been good all year. They stood on their heads and got a stop.”
Marsh added that situations like this are where it pays off having an experienced squad.
“It comes down to defensive leadership,” Marsh said. “We have a bunch of guys who have played varsity for a long time. They just said don’t panic and keep doing what they’re doing.”
From there, the Titans chewed up the last bit of the third and the first 7:30 of the fourth quarters, and although they didn’t score, they once again put Salamanca in a position where they couldn’t come back, and the score held at 21-7.
Frank was the hero for the Titans, going 5 of 14 for 69 yards, a touchdown and an interception, but rushing for 223 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns. Rowland had the 40-yard touchdown reception from Frank, while Lucas Marsh and Logan Grinols each had interceptions.
For the Warriors, Mckenna finished the game 5 of 15 for 54 yards and two interceptions, while adding 29 yards on the ground on eight carries.
The Titans finish their season as Section VI Class D champions with a record of 6-1 while the Warriors end their strong season with a 4-3 record.