Franklin has proven to move the football, especially when junior I’zjaier Sanders is on and getting the time to throw to receivers like Jose Benjamin, Juwan Outsey and Sherrod Middleton. Now the Warriors need to find a way to run it — especially coming off last week’s 21-8 loss at Immaculata.
The Warriors (2-1, 2-1) would figure to need a better running game if they are to stop unheralded Bridgewater-Raritan (2-1, 2-1) Saturday afternoon in a Mid-State 38 Delaware Division game behind Franklin High School on Elizabeth Avenue. Game time is 1 p.m.
Franklin ran 20 times for 12 yards as Sanders was sacked five times against Immaculata. Can the Warriors survive on pass alone? They could also do better than last week with time of possession as Immacualta had a whopping 28:01-19:59 edge, running 45 plays to Immacualta’s 61. Sanders has been able to throw (33-72, 491 yards, eight touchdowns, one pick) was a big reason his team started 2-0, but was 9-for-25 for 69 yards and an interception last week. Senior Eddie Lee is a back that can certainly help as his 64-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage in the season opener against Hunterdon Central as an example.
Senior linebacker Mike Pennella and Scott Brandle and junior Jack Fanning have played very well and will need to keep it going Saturday. Immaculata didn’t allow Franklin to break a big play.
“Franklin is a really fast team, they run fast plays, and they get to their plays very quickly,” said Bridgewater-Raritan junior running back Matthew Eichhorn.
While Sanders has been a pivotal player for the Warriors, senior Donnie Stires is doing the same for Bridgewater-Raritan with a steadfast offensive line to protect him. Stires has hit on 54 of 68 for 575 yards, second best in the Courier News area. At 6-foot-4, 185, senior wide receiver Tom Goodberlet has been a matchup nightmare for opponents, catching 22 passes for 297 yards and junior Josh Robbins has caught 22 for 226 yards and one score. Robbins has been good at taking short receptions and turning them into big gains.
“I played with Stires on the junior varsity last year, and saw him on the seven-on-sevens in the off season and he was really passing he ball well then; he’s really improved,” Eichhorn said.
Pennella and Eichhorn do most of the running with Eichhorn picking up 212 yards on 38 carries. Center Alex Kaiteris, Matt Roselle,, Ryan Stevens, Patrick Saulino and Kyle Kiernan have provided outstanding pass blocking. Senior Ryan Mirra, who had been hurt, returned to help the offensive line last week in the 21-20 win over Hillsborough. The week before that, the Panthers stunned defending division champ Hunterdon Central 20-19 a week after Franklin beat the Red Devils 42-41 in overtime.
“We’re a very confident team right now,” said Eichhorn.
Though the Panthers have been very good in the air, Franklin is known as a team to break hearts with big interception returns.
“We’re a balanced team, but as of now the majority of it has been passing,” said Eichhorn. “Once we get hot in one thing, passing or running, we won’t pull away from something that’s working. Coach (Scott Bray) is going to do what works best. I think we have the potentional to run the ball, but our passing game is what is working and we’ll stick to what works.”