Running back Ross Franklin was under the weather, opening the door for quarterback Matt Smith to step into the spotlight for the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team.
Franklin — who ran for more than 2,500 yards during the regular season — was slowed by a bout of influenza, but Smith rushed for 181 yards and four touchdowns to lead the host Johnnies past Gnadenhutten Indian Valley 42-21 on Saturday. Nov. 5, in a first-round Division IV playoff game.
The Johnnies (11-0) will play Ironton (7-4) on Saturday, Nov. 12, at a site to be determined. The Tigers downed Amanda-Clearcreek 12-9 in another first-round game.
“They were focusing on Ross quite bit and it’s tough to cover both of us,” said Smith, who was 2-for-5 passing for 59 yards. “The line did a great job of opening things up for us and making it so anyone could make those runs.”
Smith scored on a 50-yard run on Johnstown’s second play from scrimmage and on a 19-yard run with 5 minutes, 6 seconds left in the opening quarter for a 14-0 lead after two of Charles Benton’s six extra points.
“We knew coming in that the Franklin kid was good, but we were also concerned about (Smith),” Indian Valley coach Matt Lancaster said. “On those first two scores, we weren’t able to simulate that kind of speed with the option. We knew (Smith) could run the ball because he’s been doing it all year.”
Not that Franklin was a slouch, rushing for 167 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns — despite throwing up at halftime.
“Our line did a fantastic job,” said coach Mike Carter, whose team had 411 yards of total offense with 352 coming on the ground. “(The linemen) take their jobs to heart and take a lot of pride in leading our offense down the field.”
The Braves (7-4) answered with two second-quarter scores in a span of 1:36. Jake Davis scored on a 1-yard run with 11:22 left in the half and Dusty Byers returned a fumble 29 yards for a score with 9:46 left in the second. The extra point was missed as the Johnnies held a 14-13 edge.
“We fought back from 14-0 and I was proud them,” Lancaster said. “That’s the way these kids are.”
Franklin scored on a 2-yard run in the final minute of the half, and Smith added a 9-yard score early in the third quarter for a 28-13 advantage. Davis, a freshman who finished with 119 yards on 19 carries, added a 5-yard run with 16 seconds left in the third and quarterback Kyle Lehigh connected with Byers for a two-point conversion to make it 28-21.
Earlier in the third quarter with Indian Valley driving, Johnstown defensive lineman Dakota Crawford stopped Davis for a 3-yard loss at the Johnstown 24-yard line on fourth-and-2 with 5:40 left in the quarter to halt a scoring threat.
Smith, who has nearly 1,200 yards rushing, and Franklin added fourth-quarter scores for the final margin.
INDIAN VALLEY 0 13 8 0 -- 21
JOHNSTOWN-MONROE 14 7 7 14 -- 42
JM--M. Smith 50 run (C. Benton kick)
JM--M. Smith 19 run (C. Benton kick)
IV--Davis 1 run (Cool kick)
IV--D. Byers 29 fumble return (kick failed)
JM--Franklin 2 run (C. Benton kick)
JM--M. Smith 9 run (C. Benton kick)
IV--Davis 5 run (D. Byers pass from Lehigh)
JM--M. Smith 7 run (C. Benton kick)
JM--Franklin 1 run (C. Benton kick)