Southern heads to Fayetteville Friday night
By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Kaleb Franklin made it back just in time for the Southern Alamance football team.
Missing half of the regular season because of a broken bone, the senior linebacker has held a key role in the Class 3-A state playoffs.
“I was raring to go,” Franklin recalled last week.
Next, the Patriots (12-1) play Friday night at Fayetteville Seventy-First (13-0) in a Class 3-A East Region semifinal.
“He has been full-speed ahead ever since he has been back,” Southern’s acting coach Chris Miller assesses.
Franklin, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder, was sidelined for five straight games. He initially sustained an injury September 8 at Southern Nash. A week later, the situation worsened in the Central 3-A Conference opener at Williams.
“I thought it was just sore, then it fully broke against Williams,” he said.
But even a fractured fibula didn’t sink his season.
“Doctors did say it arguably was the best way it could have broken because it was higher up and it was non-weight bearing,” recalls Franklin, who was Southern’s leading tackler in 2022.
Franklin returned earlier this month for the first-round game in the state playoffs against Orange. That was a romp with a second-half running clock because of the lopsided score.
“I was ready to come back,” he says. “The game I came back was Orange, and I only got to play like half the game.”
The next week, Franklin made a team-leading 12 tackles in the second-round victory against Jacksonville. He was active again in the third round, carving into the Fayetteville Sanford backfield to cause disruptions.
“He’s one of our best tacklers,” defensive back Myles Darroch says. “I think he’s getting back into it.”
Franklin’s presence on the defense has multiple benefits for the Patriots. In addition to his experience and relentless pursuit of ball carriers, the depth factor is a boost for Southern.
Logan Foust, the workhouse running back, has been a two-way player. He also plays linebacker, but now not as much.
“Before, he wasn’t getting any breaks,” Franklin says. “Now he’s actually getting some breaks, at least when we’re on defense.”
While the wear and tear of the season can be challenging for many players in late November, Franklin might be rounding into midseason form.
“Everybody is like hurting,” he said. “I haven’t really been sore as much as everybody has. I’m pretty healthy.”
Class 3-A, East Region semifinal
Southern Alamance (12-1) at Fayetteville Seventy-First (13-0), 7:00 p.m. Friday
The seeds held on this side of the bracket, so the third-seeded Patriots go to second-seeded Fayetteville Seventy-First, which has won 12 or more games in three consecutive seasons. The Falcons are trying to reach the regional final for the second year in a row.
Fayetteville Seventy-First won first- and third-round games by mercy-rule scores. In between was a 40-20 second-round victory against Williams.
The Falcons have scored 40 or more points in 10 games this year. Southern has done so six times.
Fayetteville Seventy-First has surrendered 75 points all season. The most scored against the Falcons came in the Williams game.
Southern topped Williams 33-20 in mid-September.
The winner meets either top-seeded Havelock or No. 13 seed Northern Nash in the regional final.