SPECIAL REPORT: Bond of Brothers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

SPECIAL REPORT: Bond of Brothers

Posted: Updated: Nov 15, 2010 04:42 PM EST

FT. KNOX, Ky. (WDRB Fox 41) -- The definition of sacrifice: Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of something or someone else.

The boys of Ft. Knox High School are the faces of sacrifice.

Fort Knox High School is unique, located on a military base that requires proper identification and an escort to even enter the campus. But on this Thursday afternoon, Fort Knox is focused on football, and a big playoff matchup the following night.

The players there may have a leg up or down on their competition based on how you look at it. Most have lived all around the world at different times, some, just learning the game of football for the first time in their late teens.

Most of the coaches are military men on active duty, helping out in their free time.

"They feel like they're representing their families – you know what I'm saying?" says Head Coach Brandon Combs. "Their moms and dads. It's a very unique situation and they've really found a family type atmosphere with the football team because of their backgrounds."

But don't take the late start as a sign of complacency with just playing the game.  The Eagles are in it to win it. 

At 3-7, one would think Fort Knox has little hope against 8-and-2 Glasgow, who is hosting this playoff game on a freezing, and wet night in Southwestern Kentucky.

But the Eagles have a somewhat-secret weapon to be revealed. Their best player, running back Josh Kleber, is back from a broken ankle he suffered early in the season. And though doctors aren't thrilled that he's playing, he's back for a very specific reason.

"Unfortunately, we found out my dad was going to be leaving on Saturday," says Kleber. "We found out on real short notice, just like two weeks ago. I'm just glad that God blessed me with the chance to play before my dad leaves. He's going to be gone the whole year and he's not going to be here for my senior football year."

Sgt. First Class Clarence Franklin, father of both Josh and Eagles' starting quarterback Brandon Franklin, is leaving for Afghanistan just 12 hours after the Eagles will kick off this playoff game.

"I can deal with the weather. I can deal with the elements. I can deal with the mission over there," says Franklin. "The only thing that's tough is not getting to come home and eat a home-cooked meal. Like I said, there's nothing like having the family at home and sitting down on your couch and eating a home-cooked meal."

As game time approaches, the Star Spangled Banner begins to play -- and it's obvious the song means more to these Eagles than to a typical high school football team. It represents their parents, their friends and their siblings that are overseas fighting for freedom.  The emotion on Josh and Brandon's faces says it all… As if this team needed even more to be fired up to play.

After kickoff, it's clear Fort Knox has an uphill battle on their hands. The Glascow players are bigger, faster and stronger – and jump out to a 21-7 lead. But momentum seems to shift on one play, when Brandon, with proud papa screaming on the sidelines, makes a few defenders miss and scores to bring the game to 21-13.

It's now the fourth quarter, and trailing 21-19, the Eagles can feel the pressure: score now, or the season is over. But Josh, broken ankle and all, isn't about to let that happen. He takes the pass from his brother, breaks a few tackles and toughs his way into the end zone. Touchdown. Fort Knox has the lead.

And a few minutes later, Chris Whitaker – a senior kicker that decided to give football a shot after a life full of soccer – steps up to try and ice the game with a field goal.

It's good.

And after a few more plays, the clock runs out. Fort Knox has won the game. And the night before he leaves to fight for his country overseas, Sgt. First Class Clarence Franklin has witnessed his boys give it all they have – all from the sidelines.

They three men embrace, weeping.

"I love you dad," the players say. "I love you dad."

"I'm proud of you boys!" Sgt. Franklin says. "I'm proud of you boys! That's what I'm talking about! That's what I'm talking about!"

"I love you dad," the boys say.

"I love you guys too, man! I'm proud of you guys! Keep it going! Keep it going!"

The hard work has paid off. The season continues. And for one night, the faces of sacrifice have a new name: the faces of victory.

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