Fran­cis’ big game lifts Dev­ils over Whip­pets

Fran­cis runs wild (390 yards, 5 TDs) in Avon Grove win over West

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

LONDON GROVE » It’s easy to tell Avon Grove’s Kevin Fran­cis apart from any of his team­mates, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he has now more than dou­ble the rush­ing yardage as any­one else in the county this season. All you have to do is take a quick glance at his bat­tered hel­met.

He is the only Red Devil with a cou­ple large swathes of yel­low show­ing through the chipped golden paint. It is the cul­mi­na­tion of un­count­able col­li­sions be­tween Fran­cis and would-be tack­lers. And on Fri­day af­ter­noon, the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder ce­mented his legacy as one of the Ches-Mont league’s tough­est run­ners with a per­for­mance for the ages.

“Yel­low is the color of the skull of the hel­met. But he doesn’t take hits at the end of runs, he dishes them out,” said Avon Grove head coach Harry O’Neill. “He fin­ishes runs bet­ter than any­body I’ve ever had. He is al­ways going for­ward.”

A bat­ter­ing ram all season, Fran­cis put up num­bers that wouldn’t be be­lieved even in a video game. And in the process, he helped engi­neer the big­gest Avon Grove vic­tory in years: a 3817 tri­umph over vis­it­ing Down­ing­town West. A se­nior, Fran­cis car­ried the football 50 times on Fri­day, gained 390 yards and scored five touch­downs.

“That’s abuse. Fifty is a lot, but he’s our guy,” joked O’Neill.

“That was tough-guy football and (Fran­cis) is a throw-back run­ner,” added Whip­pets’ head coach Mike Mi­lano. “What a tough,

tough, tough kid. He’s an old-school Ches-Mont football back. He never quits.”

Let’s face it: 390 yards and five TDs on 50 car­ries is a good season for a de­cent run­ning back. Fran­cis did it in one amaz­ing af­ter­noon.

“I had no idea I was any­where near 390,” Fran­cis later ad­mit­ted. “That’s amaz­ing. My (of­fen­sive) line is the best. I love them.”

It was eas­ily a school record for both car­ries and yards, and was the sec­ond high­est yardage total in a sin­gle game in Ches-Mont his­tory. Down­ing­town High School’s Mike Rec­chiuti amassed 410 yards on 50-plus at­tempts back in 2000.

“Kevin is an old-school Ches-Mont type of guy,” O’Neill said. “He’s got one fum­ble in all of those car­ries, he runs hard and after the game he looked like he could have kept on play­ing. He is a one-of-akind guy.

“He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he has un­be­liev­able vision and power,” O’Neill added. “I’ve coached a long time and seen some pretty good run­ning backs, and if he isn’t the best, he is cer­tainly top-three.”

Fran­cis sur­passed the 1,000-yard mile­stone for the season in the first quar­ter and had rolled up 224 yards by half­time. His to­tals through six games: 1,310 yards on 183 car­ries and 18 TDs. He leads the league in all three cat­e­gories.

“I would have given it to him 60 times. That kid wanted to win and he did,” Mi­lano said.

“After a long run, I’ll ad­mit I am winded,” said Fran­cis, who had seven runs of more than 15 yards. “But I feel like I could play an­other four quar­ters. I guess I just don’t get very tired usually.

“I just run through the hole my line makes. And I try to run my hard­est.”

Over­shad­owed by Fran­cis’ hero­ics, the Red Dev­ils ex­tend their win­ning streak to three games, and are now 2-0 in the Ches-Mont Na­tional (3-3 overall). And the roller coaster season for Down­ing­town West (0-2, 3-3) con­tin­ues.

“I told the team that we

can’t use the ex­cuse that we are young any­more,” Mi­lano said. “Avon Grove com­pletely dom­i­nated the game in ev­ery phase. We were out-coached, out­played, out-phys­i­caled … and frankly em­bar­rassed.”

It was Avon Grove’s first win over West since 2009, and the first over a team from Down­ing­town or Coatesville un­der O’Neill, who is in his fourth year at the helm. The Dev­ils out­rushed the Whip­pets 338 yards.

“It’s a big win and I want to en­joy it, but this needs to be­come the norm,” O’Neill. “We shouldn’t be sur­prised or beg­ging and hop­ing any­more.”

Dead­locked at 7-7 early in the sec­ond quar­ter, Fran­cis scored his sec­ond touch­down to cap an eight-play, 94-yard march in which he gained ev­ery yard. And when kicker Kevin Shee­han booted a 38 yard field goal in the final sec­onds, Avon Grove took a 24-14 lead into the in­ter­mis­sion. Fran­cis cer­tainly didn’t cool off in the sec­ond half, scor­ing on ad­di­tional runs of 13and 24-yards.

“The more he gets the ball, the more he starts wear­ing on op­po­nents. And our O-line did a tremen­dous job,” O’Neill said.

“(Fran­cis) plays with all heart,” said team­mate Dy­lan Lapham. “He keeps on im­press­ing us all. I just love the kid. He plays his heart out.”

The Whip­pets — who scored on a pair of long plays in the first half — managed just three points the rest of the way on a 50yard field goal from Mas­simo Bis­cardi. Sopho­more quar­ter­back Will Howard threw for most of his 230 yards in the sec­ond half, and re­ceiver Dan Byrnes grabbed six catches for 116 yards and a TD.

Up next for the Whip­pets: un­beaten ri­val Down­ing­town East.

“We will see more of the same,” Mi­lano pre­dicted. “They will run down­hill at us. If I were them, I’d give it to their tail­back 70 times.”

Lapham fin­ished with three catches for 42 yards and was a force on de­fense with an in­ter­cep­tion and a sack.

“We’ve al­ways wanted to beat a Down­ing­town team,” Fran­cis said. “Ev­ery­one was al­ways scared of them, but not us.”

NATE HECKENBERGER — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Avon Grove’s Kevin Fran­cis breaks away for a touch­down on the open­ing drive of the sec­ond half.

NATE HECKENBERGER — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Avon Grove’s Kevin Fran­cis breaks a tackle against Down­ing­town West.

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