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REGIONAL CHAMPS! Bearcats slog through mud, hold on to beat Franklin for title

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By John Herndon

Anderson County was not going to let this one slip through its hands.

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The Bearcats scored with 3:02 to play, then intercepted two Franklin County passes in the final three minutes to defeat the Flyers, 31-28, in the Class 5A, Region 3 football championship game Friday night on a muddy field at Anderson County's Hollie Warford Stadium.

The game-winner came when Zachary Carmichael sneaked into the end zone from two yards out. Carmichael then hit Ross Cox for the two-point conversion to set the final score.

Franklin tried to use its quick-strike capability on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, but Anderson's Dusty Puckett swiped Barrett Sanderson's pass at the Bearcat 35 and returned it to the Franklin 44.

Anderson could not run the clock out, turning the ball over on downs with 31 seconds to play. But on second and 10, Darius Harvey tipped Sanderson's screen pass and came up with the loose ball, setting off a wild celebration.

Anderson had a monster game from Cox, who galloped 66 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play. Cox later added a seven-yard run for a score. He finished with 201 yards rushing and 46 yards receiving on four catches. All four of Cox's catches gave the Bearcats first downs with one coming on third and three and two coming on fourth down. Cox hauled in Carmichael's pass on fourth-and-7 for a 12-yard gain at the Franklin 11. Three plays later, Carmichael scored the eventual game-winner.

The Bearcats had to overcome a big game from Franklin running back Chris Roberts, who netted 123 yards on the ground. Roberts scored all four of Franklin's touchdowns.

Anderson registered 329 yards on 54 plays while Franklin managed just 250 yards on 56 snaps.

Anderson improved to 11-2 on the year, while Franklin bowed out as regional runner-up for the second straight year. The Flyers finished 11-2 with both losses coming to Anderson.

The Bearcats will host unbeaten Pulaski County, a 32-28 winner over Madison Southern to win Region 4, in the state semi-final game next Friday, Nov. 29.

For a complete report, including quotes from players and coaches, see the Nov. 27 edition of The Anderson News.