There are larger and stronger players in the state than Crete-Monee’s Joshua Franklin. There might even be a few that are faster.
But the Warriors’ standout receiver/defensive back has a blend of experience, confidence and game-breaking swagger that is unrivaled.
The 6-0, 173-pound senior has committed to Western Michigan. It would be a severe miscalculation to assume that Franklin doesn’t have Power Five ability. Franklin is one of the state’s most capable speedster threats since Lincoln-Way East’s AJ Henning, who is now at Michigan.
Simeon wasn’t overlooking Franklin or any of Crete-Monee’s star players on Saturday at Gately Stadium. But in the game’s crucial moment there wasn’t anything the Wolverines could do to stop him.
The Warriors beat undefeated Simeon 35-12 in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs but the game was much closer than the final score indicates.
Crete-Monee led 19-12 with 6:46 to play. The Warriors were pinned back at their own 5 and punting out of their end zone. There was a massive wind in their face. Crete-Monee coach John Konecki said he considered taking an intentional safety.
Konecki went with the punt and at that point, all the decisions were in Franklin’s hands.
“I wasn’t supposed to [fake it],” Franklin said. “But I saw an opportunity. No one was containing. It was going to be me and the outside linebacker one-on-one. And I usually win one-on-ones. I wasn’t expecting to score a touchdown. I just wanted to get the first down and keep the ball rolling. But when I got to the 50 I knew I was taking it to the crib.”
Franklin went from end zone to end zone, 100 yards for a touchdown. It gave the Warriors a 26-12 lead and completely crushed Simeon’s morale.
“We talked about the punting situation before the game,” Konecki said. “But [Franklin] made the call. It turned out for the better. He took off and I thought we had a first and the next thing you know, there he goes.”
Franklin had seven receptions for 50 yards. Lynel Billups-Williams added four catches for 70 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown pass from Cory Stennis, who was 14-for-21 for 149 yards. Stennis also rushed for a touchdown.
Carmello Steele had 13 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown. Most of his success came in the Wildcat while the Warriors used their jumbo set to bully a much bigger Simeon line.
“[Steele] does a heck of a job in that set,” Konecki said. “We have really dynamic playmakers on the edge but in playoff football games you have to be able to run it.”
Simeon (10-1) was able to run it but was undone by turnovers. Andre Crews had 23 carries for 210 yards and two touchdowns for the Wolverines. But he also had a pair of fumbles, including one at the Crete-Monee 2.
Simeon made four turnovers: the two fumbles, a bad snap and an interception.
“That’s stuff we haven’t done all year and it cost us,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “That’s the worst time to have turnovers. You can’t get back from those type of things. If you make those mistakes in the Public League you might be able to rebound but you can’t do that in the state playoffs.”
Simeon receiver Malik Elzy, who recently decommitted from Cincinnati, had three catches for 110 yards. Wolverines quarterback Keshaun Parker was 7 of 17 for 188 yards.
Crete-Monee (9-2) will travel to East St. Louis for the quarterfinals next week. The Warriors opened the season with losses to Lincoln-Way East and Andrean, Ind. and have won nine consecutive games.
“We’re excited about the matchup,” Konecki said. “We’ve seen them before. We’ve been playing playoff football since Week 3. My kids are prepared and they answered the bell.”