Franklin's George Booth (9) sacks Nevada Union QB Kyle Cota and forces a fumble, which is recovered by Robert Sanders, right, and returned for a score.

High school football playoffs: Harris sparks Franklin over Nevada Union

Published: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 - 11:06 am

Kyran Harris rubbed his neck at halftime of Friday night's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff opener and wondered why it felt out of sorts.

He was a bit sore. Credit the foe and the cool conditions. And imagine the angst and pains of those who tried in vain to contain him.

Harris sprinted and rumbled for 232 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and the top-seeded Franklin Wildcats pitched a second-half shutout to save face following a hideous first half to defeat No. 16 seed Nevada Union 35-14 in Elk Grove.

Harris opened the scoring with a dazzling 80-yard burst, and then sealed matters with second-half scoring efforts of one and 46 yards.

The Wildcats (11-0) entered the postseason as favorites in an otherwise competitive field. It was hard to tell early. Franklin had six first-half turnovers. NU (5-6) had two, and then a critical, game-changing one on the first play in the second half on its 5. That led to Harris' one-yard plunge for a 28-14 lead. Late in the first half, Robert Sanders returned an NU fumble 10 yards for a score and a 21-14 lead.

The overall effort wasn't pretty, and it belies coach Mike Johnson's weekly battle cry that he doesn't ask for much. Just perfection. The only thing perfect, or close to it, here was Franklin's second-half defensive showing.

A year ago, Franklin bounced NU in the first round in Grass Valley, the program's first playoff victory, then fell 56-27 at Lincoln of Stockton. The Wildcats will host Lincoln in the second round.

Lincoln routed Merced on Friday. Johnson won a section title at Lincoln last decade. He's in his 10th season with Franklin.

Perfection isn't entirely possible at this level, Johnson said, but he's still pushing for it. And some good fortune.

"It's so true, that's my saying – perfection, or strive for it," Johnson said. "To win it all, it's hard. It takes luck. Yes, you need talent and coaching, but it really is luck, too. For us, this is a second season.

"No one cares what we did. If we keep winning, go 6-0 in the playoffs, then it'll be the best ride of their entire lives."

NU placed fourth in the rugged Sierra Foothill League that includes first-round Friday winners Granite Bay and Del Oro.

What Johnson has is a mature, senior-ladened group with 17 returning starters.

"We've got a smart group," Johnson said. "We have a lot of coaches on this staff that won a championship at Lincoln. We have rings. We've been there, done that, and we understand the process."

Christian Fonbuena rushed for 104 yards for Franklin, which had five sacks and held NU to 41 rushing yards.

The Miners will bid farewell to standouts in quarterback Kyle Cota and receiver Ian Davis (they hooked up for 12-yard touchdown pass to pull to within 14-7) and linebackers Tanner Vallejo and Hank Humphers.

Might this be the end of the coaching career for NU's Dave Humphers, at the Miners' helm since 1991? He won't concede anything, but area coaches are talking about it, including Johnson.

"He's done it all," Johnson said. "He may be ready to retire and rock and roll."

For the Wildcats, they'll continue to march to an unbeaten tune.

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