It was Homecoming for the Franklin High School football team on Saturday, but Elizabeth spoiled the afternoon with a dramatic, 26-20 overtime victory over the Warriors.
It was a sour celebration for Franklin, which also was celebrating the christening of new additions to their athletic facility.
With 1:58 to play and down eight due to a critical missed extra point from Elizabeth, junior quarterback Derek Balbierz led a six-play, 72-yard drive into the end zone, capped by a 38-yard strike to Jameer Outsey to send the game into overtime.
In the extra session, the Minutemen defense held on Franklin’s first possession, and then quarterback Tyree Gutierrez completed his three-touchdown, 120-yard day with a 7-yard scamper to end it.
“We had a lot of reasons to give up on ourselves at 0-4, but we never did,” said head coach John Quinn after the game. “This is a great life lesson, because no matter how many times you get knocked down, you gotta keep getting back up.”
The Warriors defense got out to an inauspicious start, allowing Gutierrez to score on a 73-yard keeper on their first defensive play of the game, but settled down from there, allowing Franklin to make their late comeback.
Elizabeth’s offense was paced by Gutierrez and Sir John Ragland, who added 69 yards on 18 carries filling in for an injured Marquise Leak.
Franklin was led by Balbierz’s 126 passing yards and two touchdowns in addition to Sherrod Middleton’s 135 combined rushing and receiving yards, and head coach Louis Soloman was encouraged his team’s outing.
“I thought they gave tremendous effort today. I’m proud of these guys. I know that we’re disappointed with the loss, but they’re sticking together and fighting to get better.”
Franklin opened with a 12-play, 6½-minute drive that was capped off by a 35-yard touchdown reception from Middleton.
Elizabeth responded nearly immediately with Gutierrez’s 73-yard dash to take the lead.
Elizabeth added to its lead midway through the second quarter on a 21-yard run from freshman Jahim Muse.
Franklin again struck first in the second half on a 9-yard plunge from fullback Najear Brown to cut the Minutemen lead to 14-12, but Gutierrez answered late in the fourth quarter with an electrifying 9-yard touchdown run of his own to give Elizabeth an eight-point lead.
The 38-yard touchdown reception from Outsey and ensuing two-point conversion from Brown sent the game into overtime, where Gutierrez’s third touchdown run ended it.
F- Middleton 35 pass from Balbierz (kick failed)
E- Gutierrez 73 run (Costa kick)
E- Muse 21 run (Costa kick)
F- Brown 9 run (2 pt failed)
E- Gutierrez 9 run (kick failed)
F- Outsey 38 pass from Balbierz (Brown run)
E- Gutierrez 7 run
RUSHING: F -Middleton 22-89, Brown 5-25, Thoronka 1-19, Anderson 1-(-1), Balbierz 6-(-30); E- Gutierrez 14-120, Ragland 18-69, Mejias 7-58, Muse 2-23.
PASSING: F – Balbierz 8-17-2-126; E – Gutierrez 1-7-0-8.
RECEIVING: F – Middleton 2-46, Outsey 1-38, Smith 2-17, Thoronka 1-16, Byrd 1-11, Anderson 1-(-1); E – Hunter 1-8.