The Franklin High School football team lines up after practice in the early 2019-20 season. Photo taken by Isaak Ordaz

A brisk breeze awakens a dreary city to dew on the ground; the first time of the season. The drag of the week is culminating, but the wait is over. As people turn up at Franklin High School, they feel the buzz. It’s game day. Time ticks on. Classes end and many go home. Soon, they return. This time in one single color: Maroon. They eat from food carts and win raffles. As the sun drops lower and lower, the anticipation grows. Then, they cram the bleachers. Dusk hits. The lights go on, the crowd roars. Two columns of shiny helmets come across the field. A chilly night is beginning, the first of many.  The stands are quaking…

The Franklin Lightning football team started their season on September 6, 2019; the first with the new name. Wes Warren, who heads the program, has a very positive outlook on the season…and not much will change it.

The Lightning are 0-2, but Warren doesn’t see this as negative. He is optimistic, and with good reason. His team is united. He prides himself in the way his boys have come together already. He remembers the Lewis & Clark college football camp the team attended in late June, and the reason they were there was to have fun. The players were housed in dorms on campus, and with time unsupervised, shenanigans were a given… “There was one night that we had a coaches’ meeting. Me and Coach Naanee were walking back into the dorms. The lights were all dark, and we saw someone running down the stairs. We looked at each other and thought, ‘Great, what are we getting ourselves into?’ [The team was] playing a big game of hide and seek!” The team played games, rap battles, and overall just meshed completely. The culture this year isn’t one built upon expectations that are bloated by the amount of talent on the field. He’s happy that his team is coming together. “Our kids are slow to point fingers at each other, and they focus a lot more on togetherness and lifting each other up instead of putting each other down,” says Warren. 

Warren realizes that football reveals character and that life is about how you react. “I feel like with another year under our belt, we know the kids a lot better…and we focus on three things: effort, attitude, and togetherness.” At halftime of their 64-0 loss to Reynolds, they pushed that sentiment forward. Warren spoke of the matter and said, “One thing we [told] them at halftime was that we have an opportunity. We can control our own attitude. In the future, something is not going to go your way; you get to control how you react to it.” In the second half, it led to fun ball being played, hard work from everyone on the team, and high morale at the end of the game. Other ways the coaching staff has really gotten to the level of the students is realizing that football isn’t always a top priority for them, and the staff continues to remind them that it’s all supposed to be fun. “Sometimes instead of practice it’s, ‘Let’s head to DQ and have some blizzards!’”

With league play yet to start, Warren still has high hopes for the season. He believes that the squad can make it to the playoffs, and even win a game or two. “When you get to that first round of the playoffs, it’s a game of matchups,” said Warren. The season may seem to be yet unraveling, but there is a reason to feel good regardless.

Many similar outlooks seem to be shared throughout the program. Ian Dayanan (12), player of multiple positions and a team captain, aims to help the team make the top three in the PIL, meaning winning games against opponents like Roosevelt, Madison, and Lincoln. “I see a lot of potential in people. Cody [Rounseville, a defensive linebacker and offensive guard], it’s his first year, but he’s doing great. Everyone’s learning…I think we can get it down, it just depends on everyone’s effort. So far, there’s been a lot of progression,” says Dayanan, who has played for seven years under the Franklin banner. He played first as a youth in the sixth grade, and is now a Senior team captain. The positivity is spread to each individual on the team, and Ian makes sure that’s the case when he leads. “I choose to be vocal. I make sure to stay on my teammates, and make sure they’re always working and improving,” he remarks. The current wide receiver and safety, who is also able to play a plethora of other positions when necessary, joined the team and found a community and a family on the field. With how other players talk about the mindset of the group, there is reason to believe everyone on the team found the same thing.

Cody Rounseville (12), an offensive guard and outside linebacker, says that the locker room is great, and that the unit’s culture is very positive. He joined Dayanan in praising the locker room, saying, “In the locker room, everyone’s chill with each other. You know, there’s no ‘Oh, you’re a stuid freshman.’” He also brought up the emphasis on fundamentals and how the coaches are genuine and honest to really get the best out of the players. “Coach McGwire pulled me and Andrew Barrett aside and told us to our faces that we’re fighting for a [position].” Rounseville, a first year player, admits that he wishes he had played earlier in his high school career to both enjoy the experience longer and to have a higher level of play as he transitions from soccer to football. “Some of the harder things to adjust to have been football’s spacing and the language…in the first practice, coach was talking to us and he was just speaking Spanish.” Rounsevilles biggest goals reflect the most cohesive message of the whole team: To finish strong, together. “Towards the end of the season, I think it will get more interesting, and our matchups will be [in our favor],” Rounseville says.

The Franklin Lightning are a team. Our team. Whether they are PIL Champs or not, they will have enjoyed the season, and we should, too. The message after their rocky start has been to keep working and to build off of the foundations built in the offseason, over hide and seek and trips to Dairy Queen. So, let’s build.

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