The Franklin Academy football team gathers at Crowner Field following a 34-28 comeback win on senior day. Evan Wheaton/Malone Telegram

Malone – Brady Sweet knew what was about to happen the moment before it did.

Following a touchdown from Franklin Academy’s Trey LaGrave to tie the game 28-28 with a minute and 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Tupper Lake set up shop on their own 20-yard line. Lumberjacks sophomore quarterback Jayden Farnsworth stepped back in the pocket and sent a pass that landed in the hands of Sweet.

“I kinda caught on late in the game about how they do it. Whoever they send in motion, if he keeps running and he doesn’t stop, it’s a pass to him every time,” Sweet said. “I noticed it a few plays before halftime, and I hesitated to jump for it because I didn’t want to gamble. But this time, I’m like, ‘I know it’s going to him.’”

Upon reading the play and making the interception, Sweet ran the ball in for a pick-six to seal a 34-28 comeback victory for the Huskies at Crowner Field on Sunday.

“My first thought was to just get the ball. Then I got the ball and I ran. It’s amazing because it’s only my second touchdown of my career so it’s really awesome to win a game like that,” Sweet said.

Tupper Lake followed with a five-play, 40-yard drive in response, but ultimately fell short. With hardly any time on the clock, the Lumberjacks started finding success in the air.

“We knew there was a minute 30 left, they have to start throwing the ball, they have to go 70 yards,” Franklin Academy coach Cory West said. “Because of the circumstance, you don’t want to be beat deep and give up a big play so we actually had our guys off a little bit.

“And yeah, they got some receptions but the big thing was to keep them inbounds and get them tackled, get them to the ground and if they’re going to beat us, make them drive 70 yards because you saw passing is not their strength, so just keep them in front, make the tackles and just keep the clock running.”

Tupper Lake had a dominant run game throughout the day. Senior runningback Noah Varden made four touchdowns and three 2-point conversions with 277 yards on 26 carries.

The first score of the game came on Tupper Lake’s opening drive — three rushes from Varden for 49 yards — to give the Lumberjacks an early lead.

“He runs hard. I mean, he’s one of those kids that you have to hit him low, and there were some times tackling-wise that we were hitting him up too high,” West said. “He was able to — if you didn’t wrap him and get multiple guys on him — he was able to balance out tackles.”

The Huskies found their groove in the second quarter. LaGrave (14 carries, 86 yards, three touchdowns) made the first of his three touchdowns on a 3-yard rush up the middle to cap off a 10-play, 68-yard drive.

The following possession for Tupper Lake ended in a fumble that was recovered by Franklin Academy junior safety Eli Race. Race ran it back to the Lumberjacks’ 8-yard line, where LaGrave forced it in on two carries to give the Huskies a 14-8 lead.

“They were covering the sweep, so we just figured out we can tuck it under and punch it through,” Franklin Academy junior quarterback Jeremiah Scharf said. “Me and Try are tough I guess, we just outran them basically.”

Scharf threw 2-for-8 and rushed 21 times for 183 yards and a touchdown. The Huskies tightened up their run defense in the second quarter, but once again struggled to contain the Lumberjacks’ rushing attack after the half.

Tupper Lake opened the third quarter with a two-play drive that resulted in a 64-yard run to the house from Varden to give the Lumberjacks the lead once more, 16-14.

After a Franklin Academy punt, Varden dashed off on a 52-yard run along the sideline for a hat trick to extend Tupper Lake’s lead 22-14.

“They hit some gaps. We a couple of times didn’t fill our gaps and they had the right play called,” West said. “(Varden is) a tough runner, him and (Ryley Hill). They just ran the ball really hard and he did give us a lot of trouble.”

The Huskies opened the fourth quarter facing a second-and-5 situation. Four plays later, Scharf scored on a 13-yard keeper up the middle to tie the game once again at 22-all.

“It’s kind of tough with COVID and everything, I haven’t really had a full season,” Scharf said. “But I don’t know, I’m just trying to do the best for them, just make it as fun as possible, you know? Just trying to make it last. And that was a great comeback, so it was fun.”

The Lumberjacks marched downfield on an 11-play, 70-yard drive on the following possession ending in a 35-yard rushing touchdown from Varden to create the fifth lead change of the day before LaGrave’s late score with 1:31 left.

The win came on senior day, where eight seniors were honored prior to the game. Those seniors have had adversity the past two years, with an 0-10 season before the pandemic created doubt for the current one.

“I’m very happy for those guys, they’ve shown great leadership for us these three weeks, and for them to come back and keep going and finally get a win for them after that season they’ve been through, plus COVID and not knowing if you’re going to have a season, to come in here and keep grinding and keep playing hard, our juniors and sophomores filled in where we needed them and they played well too,” West said.

“Just a total team effort, I’m so proud of those guys. They never gave up. They had lapse, but they never gave up. They kept digging, they kept fighting, they kept playing and they made the plays when we needed to and I couldn’t be more proud of those 19 guys we have on this team.”

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