ARLINGTON - It’s been on the tip of their tongues all season – 164.
That’s the number of miles between Franklin, Texas to Arlington.
It’s what Franklin head coach Mark Fannin shouted to his players after their state semifinal win over Waskom and it was the rally cry after they finished the job following a 49-35 win over Gunter in the 3A DII state championship.
A year ago, the Lions were 30 seconds from claiming their first-ever title before Canadian scored in dramatic fashion on its final drive. It’s been the driving force for a roster that returned most of its contributors from that 2020 heartbreak.
“We've been saying that word ‘finish’ from the start of this year,” Fannin said. “It's been ingrained in their head ever since this time last year.
“It's something that my kids have really bought into, and they deserve it.”
After the game, Offensive MVP MalcoLm Murphy sat on the field alone in exaltation and receiver Hayden Helton took it all in with his hands on his head by himself while wearing his state championship hat, both seniors who remember how they felt after last year’s game.
“I can't even explain the feeling of feeling right now,” Murphy said. “I'm just so happy we stuck together through the ups and downs. We knew we can fight to get in that's what we did to get.”
Another person who perhaps felt an even greater of redemption was senior kicker and linebacker Seth Shamblin. Shamblin missed a late extra point last year that allowed Canadian to go ahead on its final drive. Friday night, he went 7-for-7 on his PATs and added 5.5 tackles with two tackles for loss.
“That kid is a very special kid” Fannin said of his senior. “How he handled himself after last year, and how he grew from that moment, and became a better football player. It'd been very easy for him just to quit and give up. He heard a lot of rumors, a lot of bad stuff on social media and being a 17-year-old kid, that's hard to overcome some time. And he took it like a man, and it motivated him more than anything. He was out all summer long kicking all throughout the year. And he was ready for this moment tonight.”
Murphy ran for a game-high 287 yards and four touchdowns, all four came on the same play-call. Bryson Washington ran for 171 yards and his brother, Bobby, ran for 102. The Lions finished with zero passing yards and 560 on the ground.
“It's been very emotional ride for my last time playing with my senior brothers,” junior Bryson Washington said.
After heading into the locker room in a one-score game, Franklin outscored Gunter 28-15 in the second half and averaged 12.4 yards per play in the fourth quarter to the Tigers’ 2.7.
“You know, we really didn't do anything different,” Fannin said. “We stuck with our game plan. We knew going into halftime, we didn't have to make many adjustments and we were having success moving the football.”
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