Franklin High's football team learned a lesson last year when the Panthers were knocked out of the City Section 4-A playoffs in the first round by Garfield.
Potent offenses might win games, but championships in the most competitive divisions are won with defense.
With that thought in mind, some of Franklin's best athletes moved to defense or are playing both ways this season. The results were evident Friday at Lincoln High in the Panthers' 49-0 Northern League victory over Lincoln.
Franklin (3-2 overall, 2-0 in the Northern Conference) limited the Tigers to 84 total yards and secured its first shutout of the season by stopping Lincoln quarterback Nestor Ontiveros as he tried to scramble into the end zone from the six yard-line on the game's final play.
The Panthers held Sherman Austin, Lincoln's breakaway threat, to minus-2 yards in 12 carries. The one time Austin was able to turn upfield for an apparent 24-yard gain, it was called back because of a holding penalty.
"The defense and special teams put us in great position all day," said Franklin quarterback Erik Garcia, who passed for four touchdowns and also ran for a score. "It was kind of hard for us to mix it up. Just about everything we were doing was working."
And working quickly.
It took Franklin five plays or less to score all seven of its touchdowns.
Garcia, who completed seven of 12 passes for 192 yards, connected with wide receiver Daniel Gourdine on touchdown pass plays of 28, 13, 16 and 28 yards. Gourdine had one other reception for 25 yards. Lincoln was unable to stop him on slant patterns or fades into the corner of the end zone.
"Those patterns have been successful for us all season," Gourdine said. "Erik audibilizes a lot at the line and I just try to use my speed to get where the ball is going to be."
Franklin running back Oscar Serrano showed his moves and speed on a 44-yard touchdown run on the Panthers' first possession. He also had a three-yard scoring run in the second quarter en route to a 35-0 halftime lead.
Franklin's David Constantini had several punt returns of 25 yards or more to give the Panthers excellent field position for virtually every possession. Fernando Salmeron's kickoffs for Franklin were fielded either inside the five or were booted out of the end zone, keeping Lincoln (1-4, 0-2) consistently pinned in its territory.
"We consider ourselves a 4-A contender, a team that can win a championship," Franklin Coach Armando Gonzalez said. "That's what we're working for."