Rockets fall to Franklin

The Titusville Rockets held senior night festivities before their Saturday night game against the 0-1 Franklin Knights. Unfortunately for the 10 Rocket seniors, the night honoring them will be remembered as a loss.

The Rockets can only blame themselves for the 21-0 loss as they fumbled five times, including three fumbles in their first five offensive plays. The Knights won the game behind a solid all-around performance from quarterback Aaron Burkhart, who had the ball in his hands on almost every Franklin play rushing 29 times and dropping back for 18 passes.

While the Knights rushed the ball 37 times, it was the Franklin passing attack that really made the difference Saturday night. The Knights threw the ball 19 times with 12 completions. Burkhart accounted for all but one pass which was thrown by backup quarterback Hunter Marsteller.

The Knights had 158 passing yards and had one passing touchdown on a 20-yard Burkhart pass to Cole Buckley. On the ground, Burkhart had 98 rushing yards on 29 rushes, good for 2.5 yards per rush.

The Franklin rushing attack also featured four rushes from Jonah Heckathorne for seven yards, three rushes from Tyler Brandon for 17 yards and a score, and one rush from Carson Wilbe who lost a yard. In total, the Knights ran 123 yards on 37 carries, good for 3.25 yards per carry.

“We did a good job against the run, but then they’d just throw a pass,” Titusville coach Bryan Baldwin said of his defense.

The Rockets’ secondary was tested for the first time this season since last week Meadville only threw the ball twice gaining three yards. A bright spot for the Rockets’ defense was a great goal line stand on the first possession of the second half. The Knights ran Burkhart on 4th and goal from the one, who was met with a ferocious hit by Titusville’s Joe Jacobsen.

While the Titusville defense had a good game, the Rockets offense had a night to forget. Titusville couldn’t hold onto the ball, fumbling five times. Those five fumbles led to four turnovers. Rockets quarterback Garrett Knapp added one interception to the turnover numbers.

“We gotta take care of the ball, we don’t do that in practice,” Baldwin said. “Its mental lapses. These issues are mental.”

The Rockets were able to move the ball at times. Whenever the Titusville offense started to get a drive going, the Rockets mental lapses would flair up. The Rockets offense created eight first downs, only three less than the Knights.

The Rockets’ best chance to score was on an eight-play drive in the third quarter. Kolin Baker took a first down run 25 yards down the right side to the Franklin 40 yard line. The Rockets’ drive stalled and ended in a turnover on downs.

Kolin Baker had a roller coaster of a night for the Rockets, leading all Rocket rushers in the game with 85 yards. Switching up the backfield, the Rockets turned to Seth Brooks for the rest of the first half carries.

Brooks ran the ball for 12 yards on seven rushes. The Rockets returned to Baker in the second half, supplementing his carries with Jack Elan.

Elan had three rushes for the Rockets gaining 17 yards. Garrett Knapp was sacked three times on the evening and totaled 6 rushes for -18 yards.

Knapp struggled on the ground as the Rockets’ passing game had a difficult time. The Franklin secondary held Knapp to just 4 of 16 through the air for 31 yards.

Last week against Meadville, a bright spot of the Rockets offense was the Knapp to Brock Covell connection, but this week, Covell was held to just one catch for 13 yards.

In addition to leading the team in rushes and rushing yards, Kolin Baker was also the leading Rockets receiver. Kahil Abrigo was the third Rocket receiver to catch a pass from Knapp, catching one for five yards.

The Rockets passing attack also set up Franklin for one of their scores. Knapp threw an interception in the third quarter on their own 20 yard line. The Knights scored a touchdown on the next play via a 20-yard strike from Burkhart.

“We gotta work harder and get back to it” said Baldwin after the loss. “We have to let this sink in, let this loss hurt tonight and get back after it on Monday. Anytime you get a loss, when you had a chance. There’s just nothing good to take away.”

The now 0-2 Rockets will try to forget this loss as they go on the road next week for the first time against the Meadville Bulldogs. Meadville will come into the contest fresh off of a 38-14 loss to Oil City.

Dvorkin can be reached by email at gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.

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