Three years ago, the Houston High (Germantown, Tenn.) football team finished 1-10. Coach James Thomas was an assistant back then, and the only Mustang victory was a 38-6 win over Bartlett.
This year, Houston (10-1), is hosting its second-round Class 6A playoff matchup with Whitehaven. A win would put the Mustangs in the quarterfinals against the winner of Central at Germantown and extend their winning streak to 10 games.
Perhaps the most dramatic difference between now and then is the Mustang offense. In 2015, Houston’s best offensive performance was in that lone win. This year, the Mustangs are averaging a region-best 38.5 points. Running back Lincoln Pare deservedly gets a lot of the credit for the turnaround, but Thomas says the heart and soul of the offense is senior lineman Kip Frankland.
“Every game comes down to the battle in the trenches. We’re a power-spread offense and we’ll throw it around a little bit but we want to run the ball,” said Thomas. “When it boils down to it, Kip is our bell-cow. As he goes, we go.”
The Lineman Who Scored
Frankland has been a starter since his freshman year. He plays offense and defense, but will likely play offensive guard in college. He is committed to Navy, picking the Midshipmen over Air Force, Virginia and Middle Tennessee State.
Two weeks ago against St. George’s, Frankland scored his first high school touchdown when Spencer Smith failed to protect the ball on a quarterback sneak.
“Our nose guard kind of plugs it up, and our linebackers fill, and the quarterback is sitting with the ball on his back hip,” said Frankland.
Frankland ripped the ball away, bobbled it a bit, and wrestled off a running back who tried to tackle him. Then, the 6-2, 280-pound senior dashed 40 yards into the end zone.
Scored my first TD last night pic.twitter.com/lZYpNYB9ph
— kip frankland (@kipfrankland_) October 27, 2018
Why more linemen should play hockey
Before he developed into a standout lineman, Frankland grew up playing hockey. His father played defenseman for Michigan State and started Frankland and his younger brother RH early on the skates.
“My dad grew up in Michigan, so he brought hockey down to the South. (It was) real special growing up, it was kind of our love before football in the family,” said Frankland. “We’d have to drive 30 minutes down to Southaven every weekend and almost every weeknight to go practice, but it was awesome. It really brought me and my brother closer together.”
Frankland stopped playing hockey in eighth grade to focus on football. He said his hockey background helped him become a better football player. Like football, hockey is a physical sport so he was able to get used to hitting early. But unlike football, hockey is a continuous sport — there aren’t many breaks in between plays, which can help with conditioning. Frankland said the most helpful skill that hockey gave him was improved balance and command of his feet, both of which are important for linemen.