Last season motivates Franklin and Douglass football, but for different reasons

Ducks will seek to win state title after losing in 1A; Indians want repeat in 3A

September 03, 2014|By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun

On the ride home from M&T Bank Stadium after the state football final in December, Franklin's players rocked the bus in celebration of their first championship.

As the bus rolled onto the Beltway from Interstate-83 heading toward Reisterstown, the Indians cranked it up a notch, just as they had in breaking a 7-7 tie to beat Linganore, 20-7, for the Class 3A title.

"When we saw we had a police escort and a fire truck, we were like, 'That's crazy.' Everybody went a little crazy," said wide receiver Steven Smothers, who caught the tiebreaking third-quarter touchdown from Jacquez Adams on fourth-and-20.

Two days later, as the Douglass bus pulled away from the Ravens' stadium after the Class 1A final, the atmosphere was just the opposite. Disappointment made no sound.

On the mercifully short trip home to West Baltimore, the Ducks could barely absorb the shock of their 25-0 loss to Fort Hill. Like the Indians, they had hoped to bring home the school's first state football championship after riding a best-ever 13-0 record into their first title game.

"It was really a silent trip back. Nobody was talking," Douglass linebacker Davon Monette said.

The silence, however, didn't last long. By the next day, the Ducks were plotting a return trip to M&T Bank Stadium to finish what they had started.

Franklin needed even less time to think about the future. Amid the celebration on the bus, the Indians, who would return 18 starters, began plotting a "two-peat," said running back Darius Hinton.

"In the locker room after the game, we just realized we've only got like five or six starting seniors, so we're going to do this again," he said.

Nine months later, the Indians and the Ducks have put tough offseason workouts behind them, eager to get to the real thing — Friday's kickoff of the 2014 season for all of Maryland's public school teams.

No. 12 Douglass opens their season at Southwestern on Friday at 3:45 p.m. No. 3 Franklin travels to Calvert Hall for a rematch of last year's season opener won by the Cardinals, 28-14, with kickoff at 7 p.m.

"When we came back from [the] Ravens' stadium, the whole talk was about push ourselves, get better, no slacking, no sleeping, full throttle all the way through," Douglass senior lineman Trevonte Gibbs said. "We're going to be going home talking on the bus this year."

While it's debatable whether it's tougher to win that first state title or to repeat as champions, both season endings provide plenty of motivation. The Ducks are determined to taste that ultimate victory while the Indians know what it feels like and are driven to experience it again.

Neither Douglass coach Elwood Townsend nor Franklin coach Anthony Burgos has had any trouble keeping players motivated, even in preseason.

"The biggest thing that shocked me with the kids that are returning," Townsend said, "was that we were asked by our principal did we want to order regional championship rings and the kids said 'no,' that they wanted to get state championship rings [this] year. That right there showed me that they were hungry and they want to prove that we belong with the best of the best in the area."

Still, Townsend, the 2012 All-Metro Coach of the Year, found the ideal way to remind his players what they're working for every day. About a month after the title game, he copied the "14-0 So Sweet" pronouncement from Fort Hill's website and posted it over the locker room door so the Ducks would see it every time they walk out.

The players hate it, but it's serving its purpose.

"It's not a great feeling," Monette said. "Every time I look at it, it just makes me hungry. I don't like that Coach put that up there."

At Franklin, where the Indians are working to become only the second Baltimore County team to repeat as state champions after Hereford did it in 2002, Burgos finds his players internally motivated as well.

"The guys have done a good job of staying grounded," Burgos said. "I thought it was going to be a tough camp, trying to motivate them and trying to get them to forget about last year, so for us it's just more making sure that the coaches set the expectations for practice not necessarily for the year, so every day we come out and just try to get better."

There might be more pressure on Franklin, which earned the national No. 22 spot in the preseason MaxPreps Freeman Rankings. The Indians could not only make a bid for their second state title but also for the Baltimore area's No. 1 ranking with four of Maryland's top players: senior quarterback Jacquez Adams and his twin, cornerback-wide receiver Jordan Adams, both committed to West Virginia; senior lineman Patrick Allen, committed to Georgia; and highly recruited junior wide receiver-return man Smothers.

"It adds motivation, a lot of motivation," said Hinton, who is coming back from ACL surgery on both knees, "but it also adds a lot of pressure, because you know you've got to worry about guys being too relaxed. We've got a lot of guys coming back, so we don't want to be too comfortable. We still want to be on our toes."

The Ducks face some pressure, too, especially having risen from winning just three games two years ago to making the state final last fall. They know only two Baltimore City programs — Dunbar and Edmondson —have ever won state football titles.

"It's going to be very tough, because we've got a lot of people aiming at our backs," Monette said. "We're the team to beat, and they're going to try to mess that up for us, but it's fun — it's really fun."

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