By Sam Wilson
The Franklinville/Ellicottville football team looked ready to fight for a playoff spot on Saturday afternoon.
But as coach Chad Bartoszek admitted after the game, the Titans, a younger and less experienced group than in previous years of deep playoff runs, made too many mistakes and committed too many penalties to knock off Cassadaga Valley/Falconer on the road. The Titans led 7-0 at halftime but allowed three straight scores in the second half — including two touchdown runs by CV/F star back Robbie Penhollow — before losing 19-13 in a crucial Section 6 Class C South division matchup.
The Titans lost the turnover battle, 3-2, including a pick-six by CV/F’s Brock Johnson to make it 19-7 early in the fourth quarter. And officials flagged F/E 10 times for 70 penalty yards compared to one flag for 5 yards against the Golden Cougars.
The Titans outgained the Golden Cougars, 260-226.
“The defense played awesome,” Bartoszek said. “That was awesome, but we fumbled (to give them) a short field (before CV/F’s first touchdown). Due to some inconsistencies offensively, the false starts and fumbles, turnovers and the holding, calls like that where, man, we’re not there yet. We’re not good enough to do that.
“So I’m proud of how we fought. We came back and we tried to give ourselves a shot, but inconsistent play, we’re not good enough. We’re just not good enough to overcome that.”
The loss makes a Section 6 Class C playoff bid unlikely for F/E, which now trails CV/F, Randolph/Frewsburg and Chautauqua Lake/Westfield by two games each in the win column for the second through fourth seeds in the division with two weeks to play starting against the Cardinals in Week 6. The Titans made four straight trips to New Era Field for the Section 6 Class D championship game before moving up to ‘C’ this year.
“It stinks to see some closure,” Bartoszek said. “I don’t know if that’s in the minds of these kids yet, but for seniors, it stinks for them. The losses are a little harder for them. But I told them, the way that they’re leading this team this year, a young, thin team, they’re playing Titan football and they’re playing to the whistle. They’re playing hard. That was a physical team and our kids matched them, toe to toe. But playoff-wise, we’re going to have to play for some moral victories here.”
Sophomore Titans quarterback Logan Frank was 12-of-20 passing for 143 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also made big plays on the ground with 12 carries for 70 yards. Frank led the F/E defense with nine tackles.
“He’s a battler,” Bartoszek said of Frank. “He’s got a lot on his plate. I’m glad he got that touchdown (in the fourth quarter). He needed that. He’s playing a big position at defense and he’s got a lot of stuff to do offensively and there’s a lot of parts to that. It goes to the snap and blocking and all that and I thought our guys up front did a better job today of protecting the quarterback.”
Running back Jordan Grinols had four catches for 60 yards including a 44-yard touchdown, which gave the Titans a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Niklas Logel had five catches for 57 yards with a 31-yard score in the fourth.
Defensive lineman Jordan Peplinski had five tackles, including 1 ½ sacks.
Injuries, including one to captain running back/linebacker Jacob Peters in Week 2, have made this a difficult season for the Titans to correct mistakes.
“At practice, we’re getting thin so it’s just tough to really mimic game-like (situations),” Bartoszek said. “But we’re going to keep preaching accountability when it comes to these false starts and snaps and fumbles. We’ve really got to just shore that stuff up. We could be a pretty good team in this league. That’s what I’m proud of. We’re getting thinner and thinner and we’re still fighting.”
Penhollow accounted for 148 of the Golden Cougars’ 226 yards from scrimmage with 31 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
“It changed at halftime in the locker room because we just weren’t playing our brand of football,” CV/F coach Joel Sopak said of the comeback, “which is just taking it to other teams and being physical. We weren’t doing that at all. We were just flat. So we wanted to come out with a different perspective and a little more intensity and take it to them and I think we did that in the second half.
“They’re a good team,” Sopak added of F/E. “They’re well-coached, they’ve got some good young players there and we knew it was going to be a dog fight especially when they went up first in the beginning of the game. I told the other coaches, ‘Now we’re in for it.’”