[Photo by Maddi Richmond]
Who Are You?
Charmco – You’ve heard the song before? A cymbal crash precedes the twang of a synthesizer and a wood clapper. It’s followed by rhythmic cymbals as the chorus begins:
“Whoooo are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Whoooo are you?
Who, who, who, who?”
It’s catchy. The chorus is far more recognizable than the verses. You’re singing it now or possibly humming the melody. “Who are you?”
Cavalier senior Chase Franklin might feel like the lyrics were written about him. He’s s a 27-game starter for Greenbrier West and Cavaliers are an impressive 23-4 over that span. He’s been an integral part of two Class A playoff runs that have resulted in back-to-back quarterfinal appearances. Pretty gaudy team accomplishments. You’ve never seen his name in a box score. Well almost never, but more on that later. So who is he?
In a career that began in 2010 as a youth league Cavalier, Franklin cut his teeth as a guard. In his next three seasons, he learned to snap the football. As a varsity lineman for two seasons, he shifted back to guard and played tackle. The experience at all three positions is good for a developing player. By the time he stepped on the Wallace Jones Athletic Complex field at Western Greenbrier Middle School in 2016, Franklin was ready to anchor the line. He has been there ever since.
How many young men like to play in virtual anonymity? Franklin relishes it. “I love it. It’s my favorite spot.” Franklin welcomes the responsibility that comes with his role. “It’s really about leadership, being the leader of the offensive line. I get to touch the ball every play, I get to start each play.” He explains there is a degree of difficulty to what he does beyond just physically snapping the ball. It’s Franklin’s job to “recognize defenses so I can call out the (blocking) assignments.”
Franklin’s family has been an instrumental part of his football life, and an integral part of his development. His father Chad played on the offensive line for Ellender Memorial High School in Houma, Louisiana in the early ’90s. He has passed a lot of his experience on to Chase. “My dad really helped me with the technique beginning in youth league.” His most critical, but supportive, relative has been his grandfather Roger “Pops” Franklin. “He coached my dad and then continued with me in youth league. Pops has pushed me a lot harder than dad has. It’s meant everything. They have been to all my games and most of the practices.”
Franklin smiled broadly when speaking about his mother Amanda. “My mom has been my biggest fan. No matter the day of the game, she was always there offering support. She is also the team bus for the family.”
Franklin’s praise did not stop with his family. Strength coach Tanner Hutsenpiller, a center for the 2010 Class AA semifinalist Cavalier team that finished 12-1, and offensive coordinator Isac Osborne, an offensive lineman for the 2005 Class A playoff team and 2006 Class A semifinalists, were both recognized as influential. “From summer workouts to guiding me through how to execute my assignments, Coach Hutz has been huge. Coach Osborne has helped with that too.”
When asked to reflect on his career-to-date, Franklin became very retrospective. “My favorite year as a player was my 7th-grade season. We won the Bluegrass Conference Championship for the first time for Western. Getting revenge and beating both Pikeview and Peterstown in the playoffs after they had beaten us in the regular season was really satisfying. I didn’t get to play very much my freshman year, but becoming a starter as a sophomore and playing as one of the youngest players on the team was memorable. My entire junior season was fun except for the loss to Ritchie County. The past two seasons really, everything has been good through the first round of the playoffs. We haven’t made it past the second round and that’s been a rough feeling. We haven’t played badly. We’ve just been so close.”
A new season brings about new challenges and some unfinished business. Franklin has looked around and watched a team of very successful seniors depart while the new crop of talent tries to write their own chapter in Cavalier football lore. “I’ve had to step up and lead, answer questions for the younger players, help them with assignments. With Jacob Nutter and Jacob Whitt starting at Summers (their first career starts), I really wanted to help them know what they were supposed to do.” So far, so good. The Cavaliers lost a hard-fought overtime contest to Buffalo in week one, but they have rebounded to win three straight.
Part of the reason the Cavaliers have reeled off the wins is Franklin has helped pave the way for three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances from junior running back Ty Nickell. Cavalier linemen love their backs to go over the 100-yard plateau. How much do the running backs appreciate that room to run? Nickell should know. Last season, he volunteered to play tackle for a team with a lot of senior depth in the backfield. In the Cavaliers’ most recent victory, a 58-6 win over Webster County, Nickell did something selfless to help get his senior lineman that rare stat line in the box score. Nickell had rushed for two touchdowns to help the Cavaliers build a 38-6 second-quarter lead, so he was more than willing to help his friend. With the Cavaliers facing a 3rd and 2 from the Webster County 22, Nickell carried the ball off the left side and had an open lane to the corner. As he approached the goal line, Nickell slid to a knee at the Highlander one-yard line. A hat trick is a pretty good night for a running back, but Nickell decided to give his senior lineman an opportunity to score. On first and goal, Franklin lined up at fullback and crashed over the goal line. The play was called to the right side, but fittingly, Franklin ran in it behind the center stating, “I just went where I saw the daylight.”
You rarely garner a lot of attention at the center position unless you have a bad snap. Although Franklin is focused on team achievement, he did touch on a personal goal that would be nice if it happened. “I would like to play well enough to be selected All-State.” Asked what that would mean, Franklin quickly replied “it would mean our team was successful.” Greenbrier West football has had 154 All-State selections in its history, and only three of those were at center. Steve Isaacs earned Class AA Honorable Mention status in 1974 while Shawn Johnson and Jeff Estep were both Class AA first-team selections, in 1981 and ‘82, respectively. When asked about his hopes for the remainder of his senior season, Franklin replied, “I would like to finish the rest the season without another loss and win a state championship.”
If Franklin helps the Cavaliers accomplish that goal, I have a feeling nobody will ever have to ask, “who are you?” ever again.