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Regents on brink of third TAPPS 11-man football championship

This Friday night, Jace Franklin and Conner Allen want to reconstruct a memory that has resonated with them for six years.

The two Regents football stars were cheering from the bleachers of Temple’s Wildcat Stadium in 2010 when the Knights cruised to a 38-7 victory, winning their fifth TAPPS state championship and the second as an 11-man team. Franklin, a sixth-grader at the time, watched as the Regents players celebrated and imagined leading his own team to the pinnacle of the sport.

“I remember going down on the field after the game and just seeing all the players crying and hugging,” said Franklin, a senior who’s the Knights’ starting quarterback.

Now, Franklin has an opportunity to help kick off a similar celebration. This weekend in Hewitt, Regents (13-0) will face Grapevine Faith Christian (11-2) for the TAPPS Division II state championship. The Lions likely will provide the toughest test of the season for the Knights, who have beaten their opponents by an average of 34.5 points.

Grapevine Faith will be making its second appearance in a TAPPS state-title game. In 2007, the Lions lost to Waco Reicher 41-7 in the TAPPS Division III final.

On Friday, the Knights will try to stop one of the most-productive running backs in the state in Keyshawn Wyatt. The senior leads Grapevine Faith with 2,768 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns, including 218 yards and two TDs last week in a state-semifinal victory against Midland Christian.

Allen, a junior running back, was equally impressive in Regents’ 41-22 semifinal win against San Antonio Holy Cross. Trailing in the fourth quarter for the first time all season, the Knights scored 20 unanswered points, thanks in large part to Allen.

“Up until the third quarter, it was too close, and I was mad,” said Allen, who leads the Knights with 1,195 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.

He gave his team the lead on a 9-yard run — his third touchdown of the night — in the closing quarter, and the Regents defense, which allows just 10 points per game, grabbed interceptions on two straight Holy Cross drives to end the comeback bid. Allen capitalized after each turnover, scoring on a 41-yard screen pass from Franklin and a 2-yard run.

“My team set me up for those,” Allen said, “but walking in the end zone (after scoring on the screen pass), that was just huge relief, and I started getting excited. We finally reached the goal that we’ve been working on for years.”

Win or lose, Franklin knows there is life after football. He wants to study pre-med in college, following in the steps of his father, Scott, an orthodontist. The 5-foot-11 quarterback with a 1,300 SAT score has been recruited by Davidson and a handful of NCAA Division III schools. While he wants to play college football, Franklin said he will choose a school based upon its academic offerings.

That doesn’t surprise Regents coach Beck Brydon.

“He’s a surgeon at quarterback,” said Brydon, who’s in his 17th year at Regents. “We run a fairly complex offense. You’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to be able to adapt … You’ve got to be able to see things before they happen.

“Jace is all of that now.”

A third-year varsity starter, Franklin has thrown for 2,789 yards and 41 touchdowns against just three interceptions this season, leading the Knights to the brink of their first undefeated season in a decade. That occurred in 2006, when the Knights won their first 11-man TAPPS championship.

Now Franklin, Allen and their teammates have a chance to add to that legacy and shed their own postgame tears of joy.

“I just want to finish it on a win,” Allen said. “I want these seniors to leave on a win and with a ring.”

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