FRANKLIN — The MIAA Division 2 Super Bowl-bound King Philip Regional High football team scored on its first two possessions of its Thanksgiving Day game at Franklin High Thursday.
However, the Panthers scored a trio of unanswered first-half touchdowns to take a 19-14 lead and produced a late third quarter TD, eventually holding off the Warriors, 27-20.
Franklin (10-1) claimed the Kelley-Rex Division title of the Hockomock League in the winner-take-all showdown with the Warriors (9-2) as both teams entered the game with 4-0 records.
Franklin quarterback Jared Arone completed 11 of 17 passes for 231 yards and three TD’s, while Mack Gulla gained 109 yards on the ground on 16 carries for the MIAA Division 1 Super Bowl semifinalist Panthers.
“It’s hard enough playing one tough game (Milford in the Division 2 semifinals), then to come back and play for a league championship and then have to play one of the best teams (Catholic Memorial) in the state for the Super Bowl,” King Philip coach Brian Lee said.
Warrior junior tailback Ryan Gately rushed for 162 yards on 24 carries, while senior QB Charlie Grant engineered two first quarter scoring drives for King Philip and senior running back Crawford Cantave added 73 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Facing a 19-14 halftime deficit, King Philip regained the lead (at 20-19) 4:14 into the third quarter on its first offensive set on a 6-yard run by Canatave.
Franklin regained the lead at 27-20 on its second series of the second half with Shane Kindred scoring from seven yards out before Arone rushed for the two conversion points.
The Warriors were unable to produce points on its final three series of the game, turning the ball over on downs, losing possession of the ball on a fumble and again on downs. With 2:28 left in the fourth quarter, King Philip crossed midfield, but was unable to convert a fourth-and-1 situation at the Panther 42-yard line.
The Warriors drove 76 yards on four plays on its first series to take the lead on a 5-yard TD pass from Grant to tight end Drew Danson with 8:50 left. Matt Kelley then hit the first of his two conversion kicks.
The Warriors marched down the field again, after recovering a Franklin fumble on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage.
King Philip then drove 34 yards on four plays, gaining a 14-0 lead on a 1-yard plunge by Grant with six minutes still left in the quarter.
Franklin then scored on three straight first half series — an 85-yard pass from Arone to Shane Kindred with five seconds left in the fist quarter; a 17-yard pass play for six points from Arone to Kindred with 5:30 left until halftime; and another Arone to Kindred pass covering 37 yards.
King Philip had won 10 straight on the holiday and 18 in a row overall, including the regular-season games.
Grant completed four of nine passes for King Philip four 84 yards with Danson, recently returned to the lineup after a season-long knee injury, catching two passes for 31 yards.
The Warriors totaled 307 yards of offense, ran 16 more plays (56-40) than the Panthers, accumulating 17 first downs and had decisive advantage in time of possession (28-18).
Franklin had only one turnover and was not penalized during the game.
Chris Sesay, Will Astorino and Gately each were in on four tackles defensively for King Philip. Sesay had one sack for a 2-yard loss, while Jake Sullivan and Nate Kearney combined on another.