Everyone left in the NCHSAA football playoffs is banged-up, bloody and bruised to some degree.
More than three months of wear and tear through game action will do that to a body.
And then there’s the case of Franklin senior Dalton Cochran.
Cochran will be gracious to the team trainer Friday for their prep work, slip on a special brace, and then try and play his second full game with a broken right ankle.
Cochran and the No. 2 Panthers (14-0) have to hit the road for their 2-AA Western Regional championship game at No. 1 East Lincoln (14-0).
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“The doctors left it in my family’s hands and my hands,” Cochran said.
“Honestly, it’s not that bad. It affect my mobility, but that’s all. I want to be out there with my team.”
Cochran (1,268 yards and 15 touchdowns with one interception) has been anything but a drama queen about the injury. It occurred in the third quarter of a 35-14 win over visiting North Stokes on Nov. 21.
He didn’t even get an X-ray until last week when it was discovered that there was a fracture. It will not require surgery unless there is further damage.
Cochran completed six of his nine passes for 78 yards as Franklin beat visiting Monroe, 17-14, in last week’s third round of the 2-AA playoffs. It was his 22nd win as a starter, which is believed to be a school record for a Panthers quarterback.
And Cochran did it without taking a single rep in practice.
“Dalton is not going to practice this week and he didn’t practice last week,” Franklin coach Josh Brooks said.
“He’s displaying unbelievable leadership and courage, about the most I’ve ever seen. He gave us a gritty performance last week. He’s limited on mobility, but he managed it good on Friday.”
Brooks and Cochran both acknowledge that the senior’s mobility is limited – he has carried the ball 63 times for 268 yards and five touchdowns. Once the season is over, Cochran will have plenty of time to recover. The only other sport he plays at Franklin is baseball.
Fellow senior Trey Maslin (35 receptions for 377 yards and three touchdowns) was held out of the Monroe game with a shoulder injury. Maslin had an MRI performed on Tuesday and is questionable for Friday.
All is not lost if Maslin cannot go – the Panthers also have Clay Saunders (22 receptions for 328 yards and three touchdowns), Blaine Moss (11 receptions for 164 yards and one touchdown), Zach Tallent (11 receptions for 102 yards and five touchdowns) and Jackson Perone (10 receptions for 83 yards and one touchdown).
Rushing duties mostly fall on Franklin senior Jeremiah Young (1,858 yards, 33 touchdowns), but he has gotten help from Hunter Gibbs (399 yards, three touchdowns), Kelton Lowry (318 yards, five touchdowns) and Blaine Moss (268 yards, five touchdowns).
The Panthers are playing with house money in the sense that they have already set a school record for single-season wins. The last and only state championship for the program occurred in 1976.
East Lincoln’s coach is Mike Byus, who resigned from Robbinsville in 2005 with a 34-24 record in five seasons. He and the Mustangs finished their season atop the Associated Press 2-A poll, largely due to the playmaking ability of quarterback Chazz Surratt (3,820 passing yards, 1,024 rushing yards and 12 combined touchdowns). Under Surratt’s leadership, the team is averaging 44.9 points per game.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound senior has scholarship offers from Boston College, Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest.
“Their offense is impressive,” Cochran said.
“(Surratt) definitely knows what he is doing, and they have stars on both sides of the ball just like we do. It should be a great game. We’re looking forward to it.”
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