Dynamic Franklin football learned from early-season losses

The speedy Indians went from 2-2 to Thursday's 3A state final

December 04, 2013|By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun

Although nobody on Franklin's state final-bound football team played for the 2010 Indians, who also reached the state championship game, that game's result left a lasting impression on members of this year's team.

"I remember it was a crazy game," said Indians senior Marquis Miller, who was at M&T Bank Stadium that night. "Both teams played their hearts out, but at the end of the day, just seeing our guys on that field crying — there were 22 seniors on that team — and knowing that was their last game and that they couldn't walk away with a state ring, it was devastating, even to me."

Many of the 2010 players, including Ian Thomas, Mark Venable, Navassa Brown, Chris Jefferson, Josh Sherer and Ryan Bacote, have been in touch with the current Indians throughout their high-scoring playoff drive, encouraging them as they try to finish what the alumni came so close to in that 21-14 loss to Wilde Lake three years ago.

Following a 49-7 win at Huntingtown last Friday, the No. 9 Indians (11-2) will go for their first state championship against Linganore in Thursday's 7 p.m. Class 3A final at M&T Bank Stadium.

"After the [Huntingtown] game, one of the guys from the 2010 team that went to states texted me," senior linebacker Bruce Damon said, "and he was telling me, 'This is your time to put a mark on Franklin history,' because honestly, Franklin has been living in that 2010 shadow. It's like Franklin's automatically going to be good, Franklin's automatically going to make it back to states, but we haven't until now."

"And we don't want to be living in that 2013 shadow," junior receiver Jordan Adams said. "We want to turn that around."

So far, the Indians have rolled through the playoffs on a wave of confidence, consistency and big plays, scoring 49 points in all three games and outscoring the opposition, 147-35. Each time, they led by at least 35 points to kick in a running clock.

In the playoffs, junior quarterback Jacquez Adams, Jordan's twin brother, has thrown for 655 yards and eight touchdowns and run for three touchdowns. Sophomore wide out Steven Smothers has scored five times — three receptions, an 84-yard kickoff return and a 59-yard interception return.

In addition to Smothers, Miller (two), Jordan Adams, John Jones and Maurice McFadden have caught touchdown passes. Running back Darius Hinton, who had an 84-yard touchdown run at Huntingtown, has rushed for four touchdowns.

"I said after we played them [Sept. 9], I felt like this was going to be a state championship-caliber football team," Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said. "No. 1, they have about as good team speed as we saw over the course of the year — their skill kids, the speed they have on the edge, everything. We played a national-caliber schedule and they're comparable."

The Indians' success actually started with that 28-14 loss to Calvert Hall in their season opener.

"Our guys, not that they had the mindset that it was OK to lose, but it was just the public-to-private mystique," Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said, "and I really emphasized the point that we're going to play better teams than Calvert Hall down the road, and this wasn't a loss that I was OK with. I think that set a precedent."

Heading to Perry Hall three weeks later, the Indians had just come off a 42-6 win over Hereford and several of the players admitted that they were a bit too cocky at that point. They lost 21-7 and were 2-2.

"We wasn't ready when we got off the bus at Perry Hall," junior running back-linebacker Kiandre Burrell said. "Everyone was all laughy, having fun on the bus, fooling around. No one took it seriously. Everybody thought we was just going to blow right by them, but they came with their A game."

After that, the Indians realized they had to prepare for every team, remain focused and capitalize on their opportunities. It reminded Burgos of 2010 when the Indians were upset by Parkville, 14-7, just two weeks before the playoffs. The loss to Perry Hall happened earlier in the season, but Burgos said it was the key moment.

"To me, that was the humbling game," he said. "That really made us understand that it's not going to just happen because we played Calvert Hall in a tough game. It also gave us a sense of urgency, because at that point we had two losses and we knew if we went 7-3 there was a possibility of us not getting in [to the playoffs]. It put us in kind of a playoff mode since week four."

Since then, the Indians have won nine straight games by an average of 33.7 points. Only two were closer than 35 points.

In week eight, after a 35-18 win at Milford Mill, the Indians knew they were on their way. Not only was the offense continuing to roll, but their defense got a jolt from the return of Damon, a key team leader who had been sidelined with nerve damage in his left leg.

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