BELTON — Kolby Tanner ran into the Lions’ den and came out unscathed, helping the Wildcats to a Class 3A Division I area-round triumph.

Early on, each team’s own mistakes paved the way for the other’s first score. Whitney (11-1) lost the ball on a backwards pass, and Franklin recovered and returned to the Wildcat 4. Bryson Washington punched it in on a 4-yard TD run from there to put the Lions up 7-0.

But Franklin (7-4) had its own trouble later in the first quarter when it fumbled a punt in the end zone, and Whitney’s Mason Wooten swooped in to fall on the ball for the TD.

Finally, Whitney started getting its passing attack on track to pull away. Devin Wilson found Tanner for a 71-yard gain early in the second quarter that took the ball to the Franklin 9-yard-line. One play later, Wilson hit Tanner from that distance for the score.

Four minutes later, it was Garrett Peacock on the passing end for Whitney, and his 48-yard bomb to Tanner made it 18-7, Wildcats.

In the second half, Whitney padded the lead when it scored on a safety after blocking a Franklin punt out of the end zone. Then the Wildcats added an insurance TD when Wilson found Jaxon Montgomery on a 9-yard route.

Whitney’s run continues to the regional round, where it will face Troy next week at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Midway's Panther Stadium in Hewitt.

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