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November 14, 2012

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Southern Indiana trio helps lead Franklin back to playoffs

FRANKLIN — When Franklin College coach Mike Leonard recruited Providence’s Ethan Cook and Floyd Central grads Dylan Jenney and Cole Richards, he sold them on the possibility of winning the Heartland Conference and going to the NCAA Division III playoffs.

On Saturday, Franklin defeated rival Hanover 58-29 for its third consecutive HCAC championship to advance to the tournament for the third straight season.

“When they recruited me, that’s what they tried to sell me, getting that championship ring,” Jenney said. “It’s been great, getting to fulfill that promise. It’s awesome to go undefeated in the conference two years in a row. We work harder than everyone else, and it’s nice to see it pay off on the field.”

“It feels good,” Cook said following Franklin’s victory over Hanover. “We knew what we had to do. We were confident.”

On Saturday, the 16th-ranked Grizzlies will travel to Adrian College in southeast Michigan. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.

Last year, Franklin defeated Thomas More (Ky.) in the opening round of the tournament before bowing out against defending national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater, 41-14. Whitewater also eliminated the Grizzlies in 2010.

Despite the setbacks, Cook said Franklin is looking forward to another shot at the playoffs.

“It’s always fun to be in the playoffs,” Cook said. “Going to the playoffs, it’s a great atmosphere. Last year, we went to Whitewater. It was super cold and we got beat, but playing in the playoffs is a lot of fun.”

If Franklin is going to get back to the playoffs next year, it may have to go through Hanover again.

Under first year coach Steve Baudendistle, the Panthers were a win away from taking the Grizzlies’ spot in the playoffs.

Former Providence running back Spencer Corrao is Hanover’s leading rusher. He sees the Panthers headed in the right direction.

“It’s been a great season,” Corrao said. “I love our new coaching staff. They give us a lot of energy. They don’t let us give up.”

Cook and Corrao, who had 119 total yards against the Grizzlies, used to share a backfield. Now they share a rivalry.

“Ethan’s a good guy. We’re pretty good friends,” Corrao said. “It’s fun to compete with each other.”

“We’re competitive,” Cook said. “It’s a lot of fun playing against him. He’ll know that we won, I promise you that.”

Corrao said next year the target will be on Cook and the Grizzlies.

“We’re going to work even harder in the off-season and next year we’re going to win [the HCAC],” he said.

“I think he’s full of [it],” Cook replied.

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