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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: El Paso Franklin gets second chance with playoffs - Odessa American: Sports

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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: El Paso Franklin gets second chance with playoffs

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Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2020 11:21 pm

It has been quite the journey for the El Paso Franklin football team.

After an 0-3 start, the Cougars won two straight games and head coach Daren Walker felt his team was heading in the right direction.

That momentum was halted the morning of Nov. 21, when Walker got a phone call saying that a player from Franklin’s opponent the night before had tested positive for COVID-19 and played in the game.

As a result, the Cougars had to quarantine for two weeks, forcing a forfeit its final two games of the regular season. Initially, that meant that the Cougars would miss out on the postseason and left Walker feeling disappointed for his team.

“We had a good team and felt like we were getting kids in the right places,” Walker said. “We had two winnable games left and the district decided that if you can’t play game whether it’s your fault or not, it’s considered a forfeit and that ended our season.

“We were stuck with two wins and kind of floating in the wind.”

That changed last weekend, however, when Franklin won a tiebreaker with El Paso Pebble Hills via point differential over common opponents. The Cougars received that second chance to play and will face Permian in a Class 6A Division I bi-district playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday at Ratliff Stadium.

Walker said that there were plenty of smiles on his players’ faces when they found out. Once that was done, the focus turned quickly to coming up with a game plan against the Panthers.

“We’re just excited to have a game,” Walker said. “These kids know who we’re up against.

“We’re just going to work on the details this week and see if we can find a way to keep it close going into the fourth quarter. If we can do that, you have a chance. We’re going to work hard to get ready.”

The Cougars already have that experience of having success against the Panthers. Franklin came on the road during the regular season last year and defeated Permian 49-28 and became just the second team from El Paso to defeat Permian at Ratliff Stadium.

It was a milestone win for Franklin although Permian got even in the postseason with a 48-13 victory. That’s something that Permian coach Jeff Ellison has not forgotten.

“Franklin is a good football team,” Ellison said. “They’ve got a good running back and their defense flies around.

“They beat us last year the first time and we got them the second time. They’re going to be a challenge for us but we’re excited.”

As for this year’s matchup, Walker admitted that the team may not be at full strength due to limits on players traveling and more players playing both ways in years past.

He added that part of the plan will be spelling several players to keep them fresh. The other will be getting everyone on the same page. Walker said that Monday was the team’s first practice since having to shut down.

“It’s never the same when you don’t have the team all working together,” he said. “I’ve got a plan in place to get some good conditioning underneath us and the main thing is to come into the game with fresh legs because we don’t want to wear them out.”

Friday’s game will also be the first time this season that the Cougars will have a chance to play in front of fans and Walker said that he hopes that can provide a spark to his kids. Just about all high school football teams in El Paso have been played in empty stadiums because the city has been hit particularly hard with COVID-19.

Ultimately, Walker said that he wants his team to just enjoy the moment of playing another game, especially the seniors.

“What I hope they do is that they enjoy the experience, go out there, have fun and let it all hang out,” he said. “And when you walk off the field whether you win or lose, you know that you gave everything you could to help your teammates win and play to the best of your ability.”

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

Odessa, TX

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