McCORMICK -- The gap is closing between Great Falls and McCormick high schools, but Art Mann said Friday night he's not satisfied with moral victories.
The Chiefs led Great Falls with 3:11 remaining in the contest, but a poor kickoff, a solid Great Falls drive and perfectly executed inducement of offside spoiled the season-opener for McCormick, as the Red Devils scored a 21-14 victory.
"I think we've made progress the last three or four years, and we're closing the gap," said Mann, McCormick's fourth-year mentor. "But we're still not where we need to be."
But McCormick was almost there.
The Chiefs (0-1 overall) struggled offensively, but Jerel Franklin, a senior running back, broke a big play late in the fourth quarter.
Franklin, who was limited to just 10 yards on 10 carries, fielded a punt return, split two defenders, raced down the right sideline and cut across the middle for a 75-yard touchdown with 3:11 remaining. The score gave McCormick a 14-13 lead.
"Jerel had a great punt return," Mann said. "Great Falls is known for having a great defense. They run that 4-3, and they're not going to get out of it no matter what you run."
All told, the Chiefs finished with 68 yards of total offense on 44 plays. Great Falls didn't have much success offensively either -- the Red Devils had 143 yards of total offense on 42 plays -- but it did have enough at the end.
After McCormick's punt return score, the Chiefs attempted a kickoff, but it was short. Great Falls started with the ball on the Chiefs' 46, and rolled off 36 yards on five carries, before facing a fourth-and-one from the 10-yard line. After a Red Devils' time-out, Great Falls lined up as if it were going for the first down, but a hard count forced McCormick offside and the Red Devils were sitting at the 5-yard line and four plays to score.
Great Falls didn't need all four plays. Jeremy Simpson rushed for 3 yards on his first carry and then piled in from 2 yards out for the score.
Great Falls 21