Kyle Franklin plays through ankle injury, leads IC Catholic to 4A title

IC Catholic's Kyle Franklin (20) gets an open look down field. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
IC Catholic's Kyle Franklin (20) gets an open look down field. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

CHAMPAIGN—All-Area running back Kyle Franklin hurt his ankle in the first half of IC Catholic’s 31-21 win against Bishop McNamara in in the Class 4A championship game on Friday at Memorial Stadium.

He limped off the field and was in and out for the rest of the game. Franklin says he was only at 50 percent after that, but no one would have known it when he burst through the line of scrimmage for a 60-yard touchdown run with 9:32 to play that iced the win.

“Kyle is special running the ball,” IC Catholic quarterback Khalil Saunders said. “Just when you think he is down he pops right up and breaks one for 80 or 90.”

Franklin broke through the line of scrimmage and was gone, straight up the middle.

“Basically I just followed after my blockers,” Franklin said. “It was a missed tackle and I just ran from there.”

The sophomore also scored on the Knights’ first drive of the game. He finished with 22 carries for 227 yards. Franklin scored 37 touchdowns this season and was especially effective in the playoffs.

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“My mindset was that if we lose we go home and I wasn’t ready to go home,” Franklin said “I was ready to come here and I wanted to win it all.”

IC Catholic (14-0) won the Class 3A title in 2002, 2016 and 2017 and the Class 2A title in 2008. The Knights’ domination didn’t skip a beat this season, even with a move up to Class 4A. They’ve lost just one game in the past three seasons.

“This win is a huge credit to all of our players, especially our [offensive] line,” Saunders said. “We always put it on their backs, we have all year. And they delivered.

Saunders had 25 carries for 154 yards and one touchdown. Kevin Cooke, a linebacker, stepped in when Franklin needed a break and carried the ball eight times for 39 yards. He scored on a one-yard run on the Knights’ first drive of the second half.

“I just wanted to do whatever the team needed from me,” Cooke said. “Kyle was a little banged up, he was fighting through it.”

Saunders’ brother Khali grabbed a crucial interception in the third quarter.

“I knew with the matchups we had in I had to go out and get width on that play,” Khali Saunders said. “[McNamara quarterback Tyler Hiller] me an opportunity and I took it.”

McNamara (12-2) cut IC Catholic’s lead to 24-21 on a one-yard run by Dorian Autman with 7:14 to play in the game.

Fightin’ Irish running back Tyshon King had 25 carries for 84 yards and tow touchdowns. Hiller was 9 for 22 for 100 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

McNamara was the only team to give the Knights (14-0) a challenge in the regular season. Bishop McNamara lost IC Catholic 21-20 in September.

“That’s a heck fo a football game,” Knights coach Bill Krefft said. “I love our team and our program. It has been a pleasure to be a part of it, to see them mature throughout our years together.”

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