Playing a conference-only schedule, Noah Franklin and the Cobden Appleknockers have been doing things in a big way all season.
Noah Franklin, a senior, and his brother Tyler Franklin, a sophomore, come in at 6-7 and 6-5 respectively; they are joined by 6-10 teammate Elliott Lowndes and are part of an undefeated (12-0) squad that stands tall among the trees of Southern Illinois.
“Coaches, we all lie all the time (about height), but those three, they’re legit that size-wise,” Cobden coach Wendell Wheeler said.
On Friday, Noah Franklin broke the program scoring record which has stoop since 1979, previously held by current assistant coach Harold Blunt (1,825 points), scoring 28 in a 68-23 win over Joppa-Maple Grove.
Both Franklins and Lowndes dunked in the victory.
“I wasn’t necessarily worried about my individual success coming into the season because I knew that if we had a solid foundation as a team with the tools that we have I knew that I’d get there,” Noah Franklin said. “So it comes with a lot of satisfaction because I know that my individual accomplishments are coming with a lot of team success.”
After Tyler Franklin broke into the lineup as a freshman, Noah Franklin has enjoyed getting to play alongside his brother. The pair was helped lead Cobden to 24 wins and a 1A regional championship in 2019-20.
“It’s been really cool –not a lot of people get to play with their siblings on the court and some take it for granted,” the senior wing/forward Noah Franklin said. “We’ve really been able to grow as players together going up to the gym for countless hours and being able to play several games on the court with each other. Sure, we butt heads at times, but we usually find a way to get over it and get what we need done finished.”
The success enjoyed by the undefeated Appleknockers isn’t lost on Wheeler, who recently picked up his 400th career victory. Wheeler is in his third year with the program and loves touting its history; Cobden is famous for the 1964 team that finished second when there was only one state tournament bracket, regardless of class.
“After that ’64 team, we (Cobden) had a big dry spell,” Wheeler said. “My first year, we’d had three 20-win seasons (in school history), had never won a regional since 64, had only been in one regional final since ’64. Hadn’t won a conference (title) since 1979.”
Cobden won that elusive conference title last season, undefeated in the South Egpytian in fact, with a handful of seniors to go along with the Franklins
The Franklins have made things a show in the tiny town of Cobden (population approximately 1,150), throwing down windmill jams and leading the Appleknockers to one of the top scoring averages in the state. In a school with a population of 184 — as of the last official count by the IHSA — that type of thing makes waves.
“Those two together make a pretty good coach,” Wheeler said with a chuckle.
“Yeah we are really big for a high school team and that has really helped us to be able to make teams lives miserable on the defensive end altering shots, making passes difficult to make and limiting offensive rebounding opportunities,” Noah Franklin said. “Not to mention that it also really helps us on the offensive end as well, but a lot of our offense has come from our defense this year.”
The hyper-athletic and lengthy senior will take his skills to Southwest Baptist University (Division II) in Bolivar, Missouri, but not before rounding out a season for the ages.
Wheeler is convinced that the day-to-day work Noah Franklin puts in has him plenty prepared to play at a high level collegiately.
“You get kids from a small school sometimes and they’re the best kid in their community, their little area and they’re satisfied,” Wheeler said. “That’s not happening with him. He’s very hungry and he pushes himself, pushes Tyler which pushes our other guys.”
And with Wheeler, who retired from teaching three years ago, he’s just happy to be spending days like this coaching basketball.
“The older coaches will tell you, the relationships you’ve built with your kids, and this has been a crazy year… this has been a great year to go through that with,” Wheeler said. “At least we’re going through that together.”
“We’re more thankful for the games we’re getting to play than upset about the ones we’re not.”