As he prepared to deliver a post-game speech to his players, Franklin coach Rodney Roberts was interrupted by a visiting fan from Northwest, who was yelling from across the field in an effort to interrupt. Roberts smiled, waited a moment and then proceeded.
When your school’s waited nearly two decades for a playoff victory, then what’s a few seconds?
Spurred by senior running back Chris Hymer’s career night, the Wildcats held off Northwest, 34-28, advancing to a second-round meeting with Turpin next weekend. Hymer rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns and Franklin stopped a late, potential game-winning drive by Northwest to claim the program’s first playoff victory since 1993.
“Huge. Huge. Huge,” said Roberts. “I’m really proud of these kids and happy for the community that’s been coming out and supporting us.”
Franklin (10-1) never trailed Northwest (8-3), a Cincinnati school coached by Franklin alum Chad Murphy and making its first playoff appearance in 23 years. But the Wildcats never led by more than seven in a back-and-forth affair highlighted by Hymer’s strong running and Northwest quarterback Cory Roberson’s playmaking.
After an offense-dominated first half, both defenses clamped down after halftime, with Franklin making the final — and biggest — stand. Down by six after Hymer’s third touchdown and a missed extra point, the Knights gained possession on Franklin’s 49 with more than four minutes left. Franklin, which had blanked the Knights on two fourth-down tries inside the Wildcats’ 30 earlier in the half, stopped them on fourth down from their 32 to seal the win.
Earlier, the teams traded touchdowns six times to leave the score tied at 21-21, highlighted by Franklin senior Caleb Miller’s 82-yard kickoff return and a weaving 65-yard run by Northwest’s DeQuan Render. Rymer continued to churn yards throughout, scoring from 7 yards out to take a 28-21 lead late in the third quarter, and again on a 3-yard run with barley four minutes left.
Northwest’s potent offense, which had scored at least 30 points in all but two games this season, needed just 49 yards to win the game after the missed extra point. Eight plays later, Roberson’s fourth-down pass fell harmlessly to the ground, and Franklin celebrated its biggest win in years.
“It’s the most amazing feeling in the world,” Hymer said, wiping tears from his eyes. “Now we want to keep it going and win a state championship.”