Ross Franklin liked the family atmosphere of the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team and wanted something similar in college.

Ross Franklin liked the family atmosphere of the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team and wanted something similar in college.

That's why the all-state running back has decided to sign Wednesday, Feb. 1, to play college football at the University of Findlay.

The 6-foot-1, 203-pound senior chose Division II Findlay over Ashland, Bowling Green, Duquesne, Ohio Dominican and Tiffin.

"I decided on (Jan. 22)," Franklin said. "I really liked the coaches there and it really seemed like a place that I could call home for the next four years."

Franklin was first-team all-state in Division IV last fall for the Johnnies, who finished a program-best 13-1 after losing to eventual champion Creston Norwayne 59-28 in a state semifinal Nov. 26 at New Philadelphia.

Franklin also was the ThisWeek Super 25 captain as well as the district and MBC Offensive Player of the Year.

His teammate, senior offensive lineman Brandon Hollis (6-4, 295), has committed to Tiffin. Hollis was special mention all-state and first-team all-district and all-league.

"It was one of those things that when I went on my visit (to Tiffin), everything felt right," said Hollis, who plans to sign Feb. 6. "I liked the coaching staff, the town and the community. They really seemed to have a close community. It really reminded me of Johnstown. It just felt right."

Johnstown coach Mike Carter said his players followed their hearts.

"They both wanted to make sure to go to a place where they would be comfortable over the next few years," Carter said. "I think they need to continue the good work habits they have shown over the past few years and keep the desire and determination to be their best on the football field."

Franklin rushed for 320 yards in the state semifinal and set season program records for rushing yards (3,472), carries (339) and touchdowns (51).

"They run a similar offense to what they do at Oregon," Franklin said. "It's kind of a run-and-gun. They run the ball and throw the ball and make you stop it."

Last season, Findlay was 6-5 overall and 6-4 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference-South Division, finishing fourth in a tie with Ashland behind champion Hillsdale (Mich.), which went 8-2. Tiffin was 0-11 overall and 0-10 in the GLIAC-South.

•The boys basketball team had won four consecutive games before playing East Knox on Jan. 27.

The Johnnies received a boost with the addition of three-year starter Matt Smith, who recently returned from an ankle injury sustained in the football team's state-semifinal loss.

"Matt was cleared to play on (Jan. 13) right before we played Northridge, but we didn't play him since he had not been able to practice," said coach Kevin Martin, whose team was 6-6 overall and 6-3 in the MBC before playing East Knox, which was 0-9 in the league. "Matt played some against Lakewood (on Jan. 18) and really has been playing well."

After scoring three points in a 58-51 win over Lakewood, Smith led Johnstown with 17 points in a 51-41 win over Utica on Jan. 20. Harley O'Flaherty had 15 points and Aaron Estep added 10.

Smith led the Johnnies with 14 points in a 65-49 win at Danville on Jan. 24. William Orr had 13 points, Estep scored 10 and Sam Scovell scored nine.

"Getting him cleared has given our guys a little more confidence," Martin said of Smith. "In practice and in games, it seems like everyone around him is playing a little more comfortable with him out there."

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, the Johnnies play a non-league game at home against Watkins Memorial. Johnstown won 55-48 last season. Johnstown plays Friday, Feb. 3, at Centerburg in an MBC contest. The Johnnies won 62-51 on Dec. 20.