Even after an impressive 330-yard, two-TD pass effort that led his team to an imposing 44-16 win over Greater Metro Conference favorite Sussex Hamilton Thursday night, Franklin quarterback Sean McGuire was not satisfied.
"Not good enough," he said. "Everything I did tonight was due to the O-line and my receivers."
His coach Louis Brown and opposing coach John Damato viewed the 6-3 senior's efforts in a little more positive light as the prep football season got underway.
"I'm telling you he had a great off-season and you're seeing the results," said Brown of the three-year starter. "He has a big chip on his shoulder and he's the perfect leader. I think he had one underthrown ball all night."
"...He may be the best we've every had."
And considering that Franklin is often referred to as "Quarterback U" of Wisconsin prep football (Ben Hempel, etc.) that is high praise indeed.
"He's just an outstanding quarterback," said Damato. "He did a nice job of misxing things up. They even did a better job of running the ball than I thought they would (34 attempts for 246 yards). And you combine those two things and that is going to make that offense very prolific. They have a great runner (in Chad Walton) and they have a great passer too (McGuire)."
The victory avenged a loss the Sabers suffered at the hands of the Chargers in last season's opener, as a veteran Franklin team took advantage of a younger Hamilton squad's heavy graduation losses.
As opposed to what happened last year, the Sabers' 27-man senior class did the pushing around to the tune of a very impressive 576-total yard effort.
It started early. The Chargers' all-world running back Drew Patterson,who had been questionable for the game after a bad summertime ankle sprain, fumbled on the game's second play giving the ball to the Sabers on the Charger 15.
Franklin took only five plays to capitalize, as McGuire raced in from four yards out.
Four series later, the Sabers chunked out a 56-yard play drive and expanded the lead to 10-0 on a 21-yard field goal by Austin Manning.
Hamilton's Bret Harvestine then notched a 32-yard field to cut it to 10-3. Patterson ripped off a 50-yard run to set up the score.
But then McGuire asserted himself in shocking fashion, hitting senior Nick Plath on a 35-yard deep out pattern on Franklin's very next play. Then on the following effort, just as Plath put his hand up to signal that he was open in the back of the end zone, McGuire zipped a 30-yard strike into his chest to make it 17-3 Franklin with 9:28 left in the half.
McGuire was not worried going into the season about all the talented targets he lost to graduation.
"I'm very comfortable with who we have out there right now," he said. "Franklin is just a receiver factory. We produce so many good guys to throw to it's amazing. Down the line, guys you didn't even see tonight will likely just blow up and have huge games."
He hit five different targets on the night.
But Hamilton wasn't quite ready to go away just yet as they put together a 15-play, 85-yard drive that featured a lot of Patterson (nine carries for 45 yards). Patterson went the final six to cut the deifcit to 17-9 with 2:56 left in the half.
However, that would be the high-water mark for the Chargers. Though they stopped Franklin at the Hamiklton 27 just before the half, they had nothing left in the second half defensively for a determined Franklin offense that would score 20 unanswered points in the third quarter.
It started on the Sabers' second sequence of the half, as they went 85 yards in six plays with the help of a 15-yard pass interference pentalty. The final 26 came as McGuire calmly waited in the pocket, moved his feet and found senior Rob Bell for a TD pass with 7:12 left in the half.
A series later, they were even more impressive, going 79 yards in just four plays, as Walton, an elusive burner, who missed all of last season with an injury, took a screen pass, cut it up inside and went 53 yards for a first down on the Hamilton 26. Three plays later, McGuire burrowed into the end zone from a yard out and it was 31-9.
Both Brown and McGuire noted that having Walton back for a full season will be a major linchpin for success this fall.
"He mean a lot to us," said McGure. "He's an all-around great back, who has great vision and great hands." Walton finished with 16 rushes for 94 yards and added four catches for 96 yards.
"He's a heck of a performer," added Brown. "I believe one of the real keys to our offense. He's just a great athlete."
Walton scored the last TD of the third quarter flurry on a four-yard run as Franklin took advantage of another Hamilton fumble.
Brown was pleased with the way his team came out in the third quarter.
"They were within a touchdown and we responded very well," he said. "They made a couple of key turnovers and we took advantage of them."
"We just decided that we were going to do whatever we wanted to do," said McGuire. "If we wanted to run the ball, we'd run the ball. If we wanted to pass the ball, we'd pass the ball."
Subs took over in the fourth quarter as Andrew Dauer (33-yard run) for Hamilton and Gavin Boeck for Franklin (78-yard run) both found the end zone. Boeck, just a sophomore, finished with an impressive 119 yards on seven carries.
Damato knew he had a lot of new kids out there, but he wasn't going to use that an excuse, even as Patterson rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries.
"We just didn't compete the way we intended to," he said. "Bottom line, that was a very good team we lost to. We just have to find ways to move forward. ...Fortunately, we have a bunch of good kids out there who want to get better."
But so do the Sabers.
"You guys made a statement out there tonight," Brown told the team. "...We were more physical then they were and all the off-season stuff that we did really paid off. If we stay in condition and refuse to get tired, we could have a lot of fun this season."
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