More practice would be perfect for Franklin


December 01, 2006|By MILTON KENT

At a time of the year when daylight becomes a rumor around 5 p.m. and the weather, this week notwithstanding, begs for warmer coats and extra layers of blankets on the bed, Franklin football coach Anthony Burgos really wanted to be outdoors this week.

Burgos' desire to get out in the darkened chill was more symbolic than actual. To be out leading practice at this time of the year would mean the Indians would have won a couple of playoff games with another pending.

"One of the things I said early in the season was, `I want to make sure that we practice Thanksgiving morning.' That was one of our goals, to see if we could get out there and practice on that day," Burgos said.

"In order to do that, we had to win one playoff game. Now, I challenge them, `Hey, I want to practice next week. I want to play another game.' These guys have worked so hard, and I'm not going to sit here and say that if we don't win [tonight], we don't have a successful season or that it's been disappointing. These guys have worked hard, and they deserve everything they get."

The Indians (10-2) have, indeed, had a successful season, the best since Franklin reached the state final in 1978, and a win in tonight's state 3A semifinal match against River Hill would mean a return to the championship game - albeit 28 years later - and more practices in the dark and the cold.

The Indians face a significant challenge. The Hawks (12-0) are the top-ranked team in the area, and are looking to advance to their first state championship game in school history after getting to the semifinals last year.

"This is the first time that we've been in the playoffs since 1994 and to the semifinals since 1978," Franklin senior Jeromie Miller said. "Of course, our school, our players, everyone will be happy because no one has ever experienced this before, but at the same time, we know that we have the talent to beat [River Hill] and outplay them. This is just another step."

Franklin's confidence would be unthinkable had they not already pulled off the biggest upset in the state tournament to date, beating then-No. 2 City, the top overall seed in 3A, on Saturday. The Indians shocked the Knights, 7-6, by shutting down City's vaunted offense, limiting it to 50 passing yards and 76 rushing yards.

Add that win to their 37-36 victory over Perry Hall, which ended the Gators' 20-game winning streak over Baltimore County opposition, and all of a sudden the Indians have given their classmates something to talk about, a rallying point of sorts.

"It's been a good thing for the school and the community, to have a program like this, to give the school and community some pride and something they can boast about," senior running back Scott Noble said.

Before this year, Noble, who leads the state in scoring and is fifth in rushing yards, would have been the lone name on the Franklin marquee. But with developing receiver Rashad Blackwell, a 6-foot-5 junior who plays forward on the basketball team, and Miller, who transferred from Calvert Hall and plays three skill positions on offense and secondary on defense, Noble has help.

"Last year, I was the sole offensive provider, and that really hindered our offense and our total game because people were allowed to make their game plan around me, one person," said Noble, who has committed orally to James Madison. "Football is about the team, not one person. Now, since we have so many threats, if you do try to focus on me, you're just opening up all our other threats and making the game worse for yourself."

Since the season ends next weekend, the Indians already know they won't be practicing on Christmas. But a win tonight and a championship next week at M&T Bank Stadium would go a long way toward taking the chill off the winter, as well as brightening a place in the school's trophy case.

"It's what we've been striving for," Burgos said. "When I took over four years ago, we were a program that was pretty much in shambles. I told the guys if you commit to a goal, and not just to playing football, but to a common goal and you work at it, you're going to be successful.

"We've committed to this goal, playing River Hill [tonight]. If we commit to it, and we're fully into it and things go in our favor, they're going to have a tremendous opportunity. Football is about lifetime memories. Football is a great game for character, work ethic. This will be another memory that they can take on until they're our age and sitting around with their buddies, and they say, `Hey, remember when we played at M&T?' "

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