Rather than worrying about slaying the giants, Franklin Road Academy might be becoming one.
Continuing to roll through a potentially historic season, the Panthers maintained their undefeated record by scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half Friday night to post a 34-14 win over Lipscomb in the first meeting between the teams since 1984.
FRA quarterback Spence Jones passed for 101 yards and had a pair of touchdowns — one passing and one rushing — to help FRA improve to 8-0. The Panthers compiled 279 yards on the ground, with Larry Wilhoite rushing for 78 yards on seven carries and Jones adding 76 yards on seven carries.
Lipscomb (5-2) owned a 14-10 lead at the half, but FRA scored 10 points in the third quarter and added two touchdowns in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“We have always been the underdogs, so we have no problem being behind,” said Jones, who was 5-of-8 passing. “We have earned (our undefeated record) and we are playing for a cause greater than ourselves.”
The Panthers, ranked No. 10 in The Tennessean Midstate Top 10, have rolled to convincing victories in the past five weeks, but they found themselves in a dogfight Friday, nursing a 20-14 lead near the midway mark of the fourth quarter.
But FRA gained some breathing room by putting together a 12-play scoring drive that was capped by Jones’ two-yard touchdown run with 5:49 remaining to take a 27-14 lead. The drive was kept alive by a critical 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Lipscomb after the Mustangs’ defense had stuffed the Panthers on a third-down play deep in their own territory.
“I feel like the penalty really turned the tide,” said Lipscomb coach Scott Tillman. “I was really disappointed, not only because we committed the penalty but also because we didn’t respond very well and put it behind us on the next play.”
With FRA leading 27-14, Larry Wilhoite intercepted a pass, and the Panthers converted the turnover into points by moving quickly down the field and scoring on a one-yard run by Thomas Fortune with 45 seconds remaining.
“This was a huge win for our football team, and I am proud of our team,” said FRA coach Bill Whittemore. “We have a team that loves to fight, and we’ve played well in the second half throughout the season.”
Lipscomb’s William Phillips and Carson Meador had scoring runs of four and five yards, respectively, in the first half to help the Mustangs build their 14-10 halftime lead. Phillips finished with 77 yards on 14 carries and quarterback John Matt Merritt went 6-of-10 passing for 52 yards for Lipscomb, which saw their three-game winning streak come to an end.
FRA’s Jones completed five passes to four different receivers. He hooked up with Sam Harvin on a 46-yard pass play in the first quarter and then capped that drive with an 18-yard TD pass to Lance Wilhoite.
FRA kicker Ryan Clark connected on a 24-yard field goal in the first half and a 38-yarder in the third quarter.