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Livonia Franklin coach Chris Kelbert talks about his team's offensive struggles in its thrilling triple-overtime 49-48 win over Livonia Churchill. Eric Coughlin, The Detroit News

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Livonia — Senior kicker Connor McIntosh’s extra point attempt sailed through the uprights and Livonia Franklin’s victory was finally secure, 49-48, in a triple-overtime thriller at crosstown rival Livonia Churchill on Friday night.

“Our kids didn’t quit,” Franklin coach Chris Kelbert said. “They battled. We were able to maintain our composure. We didn’t lose our heads, we didn’t lose our cool, and we pulled it off. That’s what I’ll take away from it.”

Franklin’s high-powered offense was averaging 50 points per game, but Churchill’s defense stifled Franklin (5-0, 4-0 KLAA East) for only 28 points during regulation in a game that featured seven lead changes.

On the other side of the ball, Churchill quarterback Gavin Brooks went 9-for-16 passing for 139 yards and two touchdowns, plus 23 yards and three more scores on the ground to keep things close.

Franklin’s three-year starter at quarterback, Jake Kelbert, came into the game with a 70 percent completion percentage but struggled throwing, going 10-for-23 with only one touchdown. He did his damage in the run game, though, racking up 125 yards on 20 carries and three scores, including two in overtime.

“We knew if we got this game into overtime, we would win,” Jake Kelbert said. “This win is a big stepping stone for us. When adversity strikes, we don’t back down. We love adversity. We love these situations.”

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Franklin’s line had its most challenging test this season in Churchill (1-4, 1-3), but still found a way to move the ball enough to get the job done.

“We blocked our hearts out,” Franklin offensive lineman Jake Swirple said. “Jake (Kelbert) trusted us, he followed us, and we got him to that promise land. It’s insane, unbelievable. I can’t put words to it. There’s no greater feeling than beating your crosstown rival. It’s the best feeling in the world. We played our hearts out a little better than them (Churchill).”

The atmosphere was frenzied. The home and away bleachers were both packed for Churchill’s 50th homecoming, but its fans went home disappointed and soggy, with steady rain coming down for most of the second half and overtime periods.

Franklin struck first with a lengthy drive capped by a 4-yard James Carpenter run to the left on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

Brooks answered with a nifty 15-yard touchdown run on a read-option, but the extra point attempt was blocked, leaving Franklin up, 7-6, at the end of the first quarter.

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Livonia Franklin quarterback Jake Kelbert talks about his team's thrilling 49-48 victory over crosstown rival Livonia Churchill. Eric Coughlin, The Detroit News

In the second quarter, Kelbert hit sophomore wide receiver Brandon Reinten on a screen for a 5-yard score, but Churchill followed that up with the highlight of the first half. Brooks found Churchill wide receiver Brendan Lowry for what looked like a short gain until Lowry broke a couple tackles and took it 64 yards for a touchdown. On the ensuing two-point conversion, Lowry took the ball on a reverse and completed a pass to junior tight end Khalil Ford in the end zone to pull even with Franklin at 14, the score at halftime.

Lowry finished with three catches for 113 yards and the one score.

On Churchill’s first possession of the third quarter, Carpenter picked off a Brooks pass and senior running back Grant Gibson went straight up the gut for a 43-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive.

It was a nice night for Gibson, who finished with 86 yards on 14 carries with two scores.

Again Churchill had an answer. Brooks scored the next two touchdowns on runs of three and 25 yards to put his team ahead for the first time, 28-21.

The rain started to come down hard, but Kelbert responded with a big 28-yard completion on fourth down to extend a drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring run by Gibson to knot the score again, 28-28, in the fourth quarter.

The pace slowed from there, and Churchill sophomore Ryan Kennell’s 29-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation was blocked, setting up overtime.

The teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, a 5-yard run by Churchill’s Taj Williams followed by a 10-yard scoring run from Kelbert, and it was on to the second overtime.

Kelbert rolled right, reversed field, barely got around the corner and held the ball out just long enough before being knocked out of bounds to score in the second overtime to make it 42-35, but Brooks found Shane Morelli from 10 yards to pull even again.

“They knew what kind of plays we were going to run,” Jake Kelbert said. “They guarded it perfectly well. I just made something out of nothing.”

Mitchell Regan scored a 4-yard touchdown run for Churchill at the start of the third overtime, but Churchill missed the extra point. Kelbert scored on a 7-yard scamper, paving the way for McIntosh’s winning kick.

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Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer; Detroit News staff contributed.

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