There was a contingent of former Franklin High football players in the stands at East L. A. College for last Saturday's City Section 3-A Division championship game between Franklin and Palisades. Some of them wore patches and rings from last season's team that later was stripped of its 3-A title because of the use of an ineligible player.
The emblems stood as reminders of a title won--and lost.
Franklin Co-Coach Robin Cardona hoped this season would end more happily. And Franklin regained the title with a 30-14 victory.
"The kids took it upon themselves to save the Franklin High School name and put some respectability back in the program," Cardona said. "Nobody will take this one away from us."
Franklin (10-1) was fortunate to be in the playoffs. The Panthers lost 16 starters from last season, including quarterback Ricky Lopez. His brother, Ronnie, replaced him this season and completed 13 of 21 passes for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns in the final. His counterpart, Perry Klein, the leading passer in the nation, completed 22 of 39 passes for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Klein passed for 3,896 yards this season, the second-best all-time total (the national record is 4,098), and also threw 36 touchdowns. But Cardona seemed unimpressed.
"We saw him throw a lot of yardage on the shovel pass," Cardona said. "We saw the films and we didn't let him intimidate us with the records. He's just like any other quarterback. He had all that publicity. That's what kept our defensive backs in the game."
Franklin scored twice in the second quarter to overcome a 7-0 first-quarter Palisades lead. The Panthers scored the insurance touchdown on a one-yard sneak by Lopez. Palisades made it 21-14 on a 22-yard pass from Klein to Harold Champion before Franklin added nine points on a 22-yard pass from Lopez to Chad Infranca and a 33-yard field goal by Jose Aguilar. Franklin defeated Palisades, 27-6, last season in the semifinals.
"I think we controlled them offensively," Cardona said. "And we gave Ronnie plenty of time. They ran the same defense that they ran last year when we scored 27 points on them."
Cardona and co-Coach Armando Gonzalez were joined on this season's staff by defensive line coach Art Noriega, offensive line coach Fernando Trevino and offensive back coach Tony Gourdine.