For the Franklin football team, two is better than one.
The quarterback platoon of Zach Eder and Ben Miller kept Marquette's defense off-balance throughout the second half as Franklin upset the second-ranked Hilltoppers Friday night at Franklin High School, 16-0.
With both players taking turns running the offense from the shotgun, Eder's consistently accurate throws and Miller's chains-moving runs behind Franklin's aggressive offensive line proved too much for the Hilltoppers to handle.
"I still stay in the game emotionally," Eder said when asked if it was difficult to find a rhythm while coming in and out of the game. "I'm cheering my teammates on, and the O-line just did an amazing job, allowing the running backs to pile it up."
Eder was 7 for 12 passing, with five of his seven completions resulting in first downs or touchdowns. Miller ran for 73 yards on 19 carries from both tailback and quarterback.
"They really proved they could run the ball out of a one-back offense when they're known for spreading it out and chucking it around," Marquette coach Jeff Mazurczak said. "I was surprised they ran the ball as much as they did. They showed how well they can adapt with the talent that they have.
"They are very well coached, and it's a great program."
The Sabers defense was even more impressive, holding Marquette standout receiver Matt Misiewicz to 47 yards on five catches and, more importantly, keeping him in check in the red zone.
"He's as good as you're going to see out there," Franklin coach Louis Brown said. "He's got everything: the speed, the height. Luckily we saw from last week's film how dynamic he was."
The Sabers frequently doubled Misiewicz and bumped him at the line of scrimmage, a tactic Brown said only worked because his front seven held Marquette's ground attack in check.
"We couldn't have done that without our interior guys doing the job," Brown said, specifically noting the play of senior defensive end Mike Tomasino. "He's a great kid -- hard worker, easy to coach, high motor -- who never came out of the game all night. He's one heck of a ballplayer."
Franklin (2-0) took a 3-0 lead near the end of the second quarter when a nearly 8-minute drive ended with a 37-yard field goal by Joe Falzon.
After going three and out to open the second half, the Sabers needed only one play to get the ball back. Senior safety Dylan Nogalski picked off Marquette's Joe Greif near midfield and returned it to the 25 yard line.
"That (interception) was huge," Brown said. "Dylan's one of our leaders. His brother was a star corner for us when we won state, and [Dylan's] been living in his shoes for a while. It's nice for him to get some spotlight this year, because it's well deserved."
Two plays later, Eder lofted a perfect throw to the corner of the end zone that junior receiver Shawn Quirk hauled in for a 20-yard touchdown. The extra point by Matt Ward made it 10-0, Franklin.
The Hilltoppers responded with their best offensive series to that point, but on fourth down, Greif led wide-open receiver Alex Ash a little too far. Ash made the catch but could not get a foot in bounds at the goal line.
"We made six fourth-down stops," said Brown. "That's not easy to do against a team that's got a lot of weapons."
The Sabers didn't let up, driving 76 yards on their ensuing possession to score with 8:15 remaining in the game. Sophomore tailback Chad Walton led the way with 34 rushing yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run in which he bowled over several would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone.
Walton finished with 73 yards on only 10 carries.
Trailing 16-0, Marquette (1-1) drove to the Franklin 7-yard line late in the fourth quarter, but the Sabers stuffed Greif on fourth and goal to preserve the shutout.
After two impressive nonconference victories over Greendale and Marquette, the schedule doesn't get any easier for the Sabers, who host Kenosha Bradford, currently ranked fifth in the state, this Friday.
Still, Brown is pleased with how much his team has improved since its scrimmage, giving him good reason to believe the Sabers can maintain their early success.
"These kids are very coachable, and they believe," he said. "They won on the JV level, the freshmen level... they just know how to win. And I have to give kudos to my coaching staff. Having great coaches makes it real easy for me."
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