District 11-2A Division I

Elkhart Elks (5-1, 1-0)

vs.

No. 7 Franklin Lions (6-0, 1-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday

Lion Stadium, Franklin

 

Coaches
  • Elkhart: Sam Wells
  • Franklin: Mike Hedrick

 

Last week
  • Elkhart: won 35-14 vs. Crockett
  • Franklin: won 42-0 at Palestine Westwood

 

Next week
  • Elkhart: vs. Teague
  • Franklin: at Crockett

 

Playmakers

Elkhart

  • RB/DB Jeffery Wilson, Sr., 6-1, 190 (156 carries, 1,381 yards, 18 TDs; 35 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble 2 recoveries)
  • QB Jordan Ives, Sr. (33 of 56, 352 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs; 27 carries, 37 yards, 1 TD)
  • WR Zack Gray, Soph. (6 catches, 142 yards, 2 TDs)
  • WR Cullen Adams, Jr. (8 catches, 122 yards)
  • LB Gaje Smock, Sr. (82 tackles, 7 for loss, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass break-up, 1 blocked FG)
  • DL Cody Defore, Sr. (50 tackles, 10 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery)
  • LB Chris Box, Jr. (61 tackles, 4 for loss, 1 forced fumble)
  • DE Triston Corman, Sr. (35 tackles, 3 for loss, 3 sacks, 1 pass break-up)

 

Franklin

  • OL/DL Zac Short, Sr., 6-0, 215
  • RB Morgan Brewer, Jr.
  • DE Will Phillips, Soph.
  • CB Seth Kissinger, Jr.
  • QB Dylan Smitherman, Jr.
  • OL John Davis, Jr.
  • OL Wyatt Linson, Jr.
  • OL Lane Smith, Jr.

 

Just the facts
  • Elkhart's five wins are its most since 2004's team finished 9-2. The Elks have just five winning seasons since 1990.
  • Senior running back Jeffery Wilson has FBS offers from New Mexico State, North Texas, Texas State and ULM.
  • Elkhart is averaging 32.7 points and 333 yards per game, while the defense is giving up 23.5 points on average.
  • The combined record of Elkhart's six 2013 opponents -- Alto, Frankston, Centerville, Grapeland, Joaquin and Crockett -- is 15-20.
  • Elkhart's remaining four opponents -- Franklin, Teague, Palestine Westwood and Trinity -- is 14-10.
  • Franklin has made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, compiling a 48-16 since 2008.
  • The Lions, who reached the Class 2A Division I Region III final last season, lost three-year starter Darius Floyd to graduation after he piled up 6,439 yards in his career at Franklin.
  • Franklin's six 2013 opponents -- Hearne, Riesel, Lexington, Caldwell, Austin St. Michael's and Palestine Westwood -- are a combined 8-26. And the Lions have outscored those foes by an average of 36.8 points per game.
  • The Lions' remaining four opponents -- Elkhart, Crockett, Trinity and Teague -- are a combined 14-10.

 

Elkhart RB Jeffery Wilson. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Franklin running game vs. Elkhart defensive front. Recent history suggests that the only way to beat Franklin is to limit the Lions' ground-and-pound rushing attack by getting your defense off the field on third down. And that will be the key Friday night when preseason district favorite Franklin plays host to a surprising Elkhart squad, which enters this week's action with tons of confidence. The only team that has had much success lately in shutting down Franklin's run-heavy approach was Newton, which ended the Lions' season with a 49-13 win in the 2012 state quarterfinals. While not comparing Newton, the current No. 1-ranked team in Class 2A, to Elkhart, the formula remains the same. And like Newton, Elkhart possess one of the best running backs in the area on the other side of the ball.

Elkhart QB Jordan Ives. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

The more touches Elkhart can give to senior running back Jeffery Wilson, who is among the East Texas leaders in rushing with an average of 230 yards and three touchdowns per game, the better for head coach Sam Wells and Co. But if Elkhart's defensive front, which has combined for 30 tackles for loss on the season, allows Franklin to impose its will at the line of scrimmage Wilson's impact could be lessened. It's also important for Elkhart to win the turnover battle, which has been a big key to the Elks' impressive 5-1 start to the season. Elkhart has forced 18 turnovers on the year -- an average of three per game -- and if the defense can continue that kind of production, that will result in more offensive snaps for Elkhart. And that means an increased dose of Wilson, who has accounted for 68.7 percent of Elkhart's total offense and scored 18 of the Elks' 26 offensive touchdowns.

Don't be surprised if: Friday night's game is much more competitive than last season's 69-34 Franklin win. Despite the lopsided loss, the Lions weren't able to contain Wilson, who exploded for a season-best 401 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Franklin is much younger than it was last season on both sides of the ball, and Elkhart is obviously a much-improved team, so the seventh-ranked Lions may not find the going as easy this time around. As mentioned above, the key will be how Elkhart's improved defense will fair against the physical offensive line and rotation of running backs Franklin has to offer. The first quarter may be big for both sides. If Wilson and the Elks offense can get off to a good start and the defense can manage a couple of early stops, it may put a burden on a Franklin offense that's not accustomed to playing from behind.