Review staff writer
In a matter of days, sophomore Cole Franklin went from being a relatively unknown backup to a hero as he led the football team to a 14-7 overtime victory against Southern Oregon University on Sept. 27.
Franklin took the Linfield offense on his back while making his first career start against a stingy SOU defense.
“It was pretty routine,” Franklin said. “We practiced for two weeks, so we knew what we were about to do. It was so routine that a lot of the butterflies were gone.”
Head coach Joe Smith and his staff were impressed at Franklin’s performance and described it as anything but routine.
“We thought he played, in terms of effort and desire, tremendously,” Smith said. “The guy’s a fierce competitor, and he’s fun to watch. He just exudes confidence as far as effort goes.”
Despite Smith’s assertion that the offense would be unchanged with Franklin in for injured junior starter Aaron Boehme, fans saw Linfield attempt 18 passes out of 70 total plays. Some of the running attempts were Franklin, trying to avoid the rabid rush of SOU’s defensive line.
“When he did decide to run on pass plays, the protection did break down,” Smith said during a press conference Sept. 29. “That was by far the best front that we’ve seen all year. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he is the most talented we’ll see all season. Western Oregon, maybe, but I’m not so sure Southern has bigger, faster guys.”
Against Southern Oregon, Franklin was 9-16 throwing the ball and gained 63 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
Late in the first quarter, on a scramble play, Franklin was injured at the hands of the heralded SOU defensive line. The medical staff was prompted to bring a stretcher onto the field, but Franklin gingerly walked off the field with help from a few teammates. The injury placed former third-stringer sophomore Cole Bixenman in SOU’s line of fire.
“I thought I broke my leg; the pain started localizing in the ankle area,” Franklin said. “Once I saw the stretcher I immediately started trying to move my ankle. Once I could move my ankle I knew I had to get out of there without being on a stretcher, because once I was on the stretcher I would never play [in the game] again.”
Smith was more worried about who would play if Bixenman was injured. Freshmen Ryan Cook and Andy Hunthausen are behind Bixenman on the depth chart.
Those thoughts faded after one series as Franklin returned despite a substantial leg injury.
“I started realizing adrenaline was taking over, and at that time I had to make a decision whether I wanted to play,” Franklin said. “So I told the doctor to tape me up. He put me in a cast, basically. I knew it was questionable so the only way I was going to be able to tell was if I went in.”
Despite Franklin’s valiant finish, to continue the healing process the coaches will sit Franklin this week against Menlo College on Oct. 4. Franklin suffered a grade-three high ankle sprain and fractured bone spur in his ankle but expects to be fully recovered against Whitworth College. Grade-three sprains are considered the worst of their kind.
Bixenman will be at the helm of the Linfield team, which has a home-field record of 26-3 in the past five years.
“It’s easier to play at home for a variety of factors,” Smith said. “It’s just the home-field noise factor that’s disruptive to the offense.”
Franklin said he agrees, and hopes the team and fans can duplicate the atmosphere from last week’s game.
Menlo, 1-3 overall, will be the first league game for the Wildcats.