Now that winter is around the corner, Franklin High School’s (FHS) initial sports season for the 2023-2024 academic year is concluding. The school saw mixed results this year with women’s tennis and cross-country teams again achieving state-level success.
The soccer Panthers made it through the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A playoffs before getting knocked out in the second round. They eliminated East Henderson with a 3-2 triumph at home Oct. 30 before traveling to Asheville to play 5th seeded A.C. Reynolds on Nov. 2. There, they were shut out 3-0 to end their season. Coach Matt Kolodzik’s team was seeded 12th in the tournament after a 12-7 (7-5) campaign in the regular season and beat a #21 seed before losing to the 5th seed Rockets.
The Lady Panthers had a phenomenal season again this year. Finishing at 18-1 (12-0 in the Mount Seven Conference (M7C)), the team made it to the state dual team semi-final round before falling to Lake Norman Charter (LNC), 3-6. Three senior players, Logan Guynn and Lydia and Laura Holland, finished their FHS tennis careers Nov. 1. Prior to the loss, FHS defeated North Lincoln in the fourth round of the dual team state playoffs, 5-4. The LNC loss brought the team’s total set record for the season to 155-15, which demonstrates the domination over the competition they faced.
Regarding the end of the era and the three seniors in particular, Molly Phillips (player Kate Phillips’ mother), offered, “They leave a legacy of leadership, passion, and work ethic to the underclassmen and will be missed greatly.”
FHS Cross Country participated in the North Carolina State Championship Saturday, Nov. 4, with the men kicking off at 9:40 a.m. and women starting at 11 a.m. The only event included in the meet was the 5,000-meter run, for both men and women. Senior Logan Russo finished 12th (out of 165) in the men’s 5,000-meter run with a 16:12.03, only six seconds behind 11th place. As a team, the FHS men finished 9th (out of 20). Freshman Morgan Cress finished 13th (out of 131) with a 19:32.18 time for the women. They finished 7th overall (out of 18) as a team.
The meet capped another successful season produced by Coach Melissa Ward’s men and women runners. Prior to states, the men won the Mountain Seven Conference (M7C) championship with the women placing second behind West Henderson. Following that meet, the 3A West Regional Meet was held Oct. 28, where Russo won the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:51.80, finishing ahead of the second-place runner by 9 seconds. He was also named FHS Athlete of the Month for October by the Franklin Panthers Sports Network. At the time, Coach Ward professed: “Logan will have some work cut out for him but he has the potential and drive to win the state meet as well.”
As a team, the men placed third at the regional tournament while the women’s team placed fourth.
Regarding individual stand outs besides Russo, who had a record-breaking year, Coach Ward stated, “Freshman Morgan Cress came in first on our team with a 19:30 at conference and then turned around and ran a 19:19 at regionals, placing 7th overall. Girls came in ranked 5th for regionals and placed 4th,” said the coach.
She added, “The boys were ranked 2nd and came in 3rd due to Barrett Stork being under the weather for the meet and running a 17:33 when his PR [personal record] for the season was a 15:47.”
As seasons go, the just-completed one will not go down as the most satisfying in memory for the FHS football Panthers. Though beyond the wins and losses, no one individual epitomized the struggles more than junior tailback Braydon Hervey. Despite the 2-8 (2-4) record, the team never quit and Hervey represented that spirit most vividly through an injury-filled campaign. In the second game of the year at Robbinsville, Aug. 25, Hervey broke his collarbone in a 26-0 defeat. The injury was supposed to keep him out of action for the season, but he came back in time for the senior night home game against Smoky Mountain, Oct. 13. Although the contest was a close loss, 20-19, Hervey did not finish it, because he again broke his collarbone – on the first tackle he sustained.
Hervey is emphatic that if the team had made the conference tournament, he would have come back again. Although, he was also fairly certain that since he plays multiple positions for the FHS basketball team, Coach Doug Plemmons would not have approved.
“I had a really bad bone bruise in a scrimmage game (one that doesn’t count in the overall season record) against (T.C.) Andrews and then came back for the first game of the year against Murphy before the collarbone break in game two,” said Hervey. Demonstrating his enthusiastic, positive nature, he predicted: “Next year will be a whole different story.”
Projected to play center and both forward positions in basketball – all of which are more prone to contact – Hervey lamented, “I can’t play the first couple games until I’m fully healed.”
The FHS basketball season starts November 28.
Despite the injuries all around and other challenges faced by Coach Josh Brooks, Hervey, and the entire team, the outlook is bright for next year. The squad will be filled with senior players in 2024, including key positions of wide receiver and running back, plus most of the defense. Assuming the injury bug stays away, Hervey has high hopes: “I’ll have a good year hopefully, if I don’t get injured.” Hervey went on to reveal the latest injury was his sixth collarbone break and hopefully his last.