Milford Mill breaks No. 5 Franklin’s hex with fourth quarter comeback (VIDEO HERE!!)
When the scoreboard hit zero on the clock late Saturday afternoon at Milford Mill Academy, there was an explosion. Milford Mill football players and coaches sprawled their year-old turf field in a celebration unlike no other.
Around the 40-yard line, Millers coach Reggie White knelt over, putting his hands on knees. He shook his head in disbelief as son, Reggie Jr., jumped on him.
Milford Mill’s 26-21 victory over No. 5 Franklin didn’t clinch the Baltimore County 4A/3A title or assured them of a state playoff berth, but for the 13th-ranked Millers, who’ve tasted bitter disappointment at the Indians’ hands the previous five seasons, it was like winning a championship.
“I’ve been telling my guys this week, the past is the past, this is our 2017 team,” said White Sr. “This 2017 team hasn’t lost to them.”
The past, however, was a huge albatross for Milford Mill. Since beating Franklin in the 2012 Class 3A North Region final, the Millers had lost seven straight to their Reisterstown rivals including season-ending decisions in the North Region final in 2016, 2014 and 2013.
The streak was on track to eight Saturday, but Milford Mill regrouped to stun the Indians. Senior quarterback Brandon Savage threw for two touchdowns for the Millers (6-1 overall), and Desmond Shell and senior Troy Scott each ran for a score.
The victory snapped Franklin’s 36-game regular season winning streak against Baltimore County foes. It was Milford Mill’s first regular season decision over the Indians since 2009.
The Millers did it in improbable fashion, recovering two squib kicks to help spark a 20 point fourth quarter run. Milford Mill has sole possession of first in the Baltimore County 4A/3A (4-0).
“We have one goal and that’s state championship,” said Savage. “We’re not letting nobody get in the way.”
Savage, a transfer from Mount St. Joseph, helped his new squad end five years of frustration. He threw two fourth quarter scoring passes and intercepted a pass, leading Shell’s five-yard touchdown run, giving Milford Mill the lead for good.
Trailing 21-6, the Millers took advantage of prime field position at Franklin’s 18-yard line as Savage covered the distance with passes to sophomore Skylar Baker and senior Ugo Obasi. Obasi, a University of Virginia commit, hauled in Savage’s pass in the flat and slipped into the front corner of the end zone for a six-yard touchdown with 9 minutes, 29 seconds left in regulation.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball bounced off a Franklin player and Scott fell on the ball at Franklin’s 13. Two plays later, Baker came down with Savage’s throw on the right side of the end zone, bringing the Millers within, 21-20, with 8:38 to play.
“Things just flipped,” said Scott. “I could feel it in the air.”
Milford Mill got the ball back as Savage intercepted Franklin quarterback Larry Smith’s pass at midfield with 7:41 remaining. Savage’s 34-run scamper with a late hit penalty on the Indians, gave the Millers 1st-and-goal at the 9.
Two plays later, Shell barreled into the end zone from five yards with 5:54 left and Millers had their first lead since the opening quarter. The Millers got another successful squib kick as Derek Davis recovered.
“We called those [kicks] and we practiced for it,” said White Sr. “These guys did their thing.”
Franklin (5-2, 3-1 4A/3A) got the ball back at its 25 with 2:30 left in regulation, and Smith connected with Nicolas Linwood for 39 yards on 3rd down. Smith’s two-yard run on 4th-and-1 gave the Indians 1st-and-goal at the 9 with 17.5 seconds left. He spiked the ball with 9.7 seconds remaining.
Out the shotgun, the snap sailed over Smith’s head. Smith tracked the ball down at 35 and tried to get out of bounds, but junior defensive back Kendall Carter got him down with a shoelace tackle and time expired.
Coach White said the Millers stayed resilient despite being down 21-6 to a Franklin team that has become a huge mental hurdle.
“This team has their own identity,” said White Sr. “We had a big battle against Perry Hall. Parkville tried to comeback on us, so they’ve been in adverse situations. It shows the character of the team, the coaches…don’t panic.”
The Millers patiently went 57 yards in five plays on their opening drive with Scott running into the end zone from 11 yards. Franklin, which was sluggish in the first half of last fall’s region final match at Milford Mill before dominating the second half, followed the same script Saturday.
The Indians gained a 7-6 lead on Jahki Hilton’s 37-yard touchdown run midway in the second. Early in the third, Frankie Stevens recovered a Milford Mill fumble at the Millers’ 13, and junior Elijah Solomon turned it into a touchdown, carrying a pile into the end zone from 13 yards.
Smith found Linwood Nicholas, who sprinted to the end zone for a 66-yard touchdown, extending Franklin’s advantage to 21-6 with less than a minute left in the third.
The Indians, arguably the area’s top public program, fell apart. Over the final 10 minutes, Franklin failed to handle two kickoffs, threw an interception, and committed a late hit penalty that aided Milford Mill’s game-winning drive.
Indians coach Anthony Burgos was disappointed with his team’s performance, on the field and sidelines.
“Win or lose, this would’ve one of the worst performances I’ve seen and not from a football standpoint, just from a character standpoint,” said Burgos. “We got a bunch of young guys who are trying to figure this game out and understand the lessons that come with it. Hopefully, we’ve learned a valuable lesson today.”
White Sr. expects to cross paths again with Franklin in next month’s North Region playoffs. He was overcome with emotions after Saturday’s win.
“We’re going to celebrate this one. I want the kids to celebrate and enjoy this feeling because it’s been a long time,” said White Sr., a member of 1994 San Diego Chargers Super Bowl squad who’s in his fourth decade as either a player (won state title in his senior year in 1987) and coach. “It’s not showboating or trying to demean anyone. It’s about us and I want them to celebrate.”
No. 13 Milford Mill Academy 26, No. 5 Franklin 21
Franklin 0 7 14 0 – 21
Milford Mill 6 0 0 20 – 26
Milford Mill – Scott 11 run (kick failed)
Franklin – Hylton 37 run (Hermann kick)
Franklin – Solomon 13 run (Hermann kick)
Franklin – Nicolas 66 pass from Smith (Hermann kick)
Milford Mill – Obasi 1 pass from Savage (Savage run)
Milford Mill – Baker 8 pass from Savage (run failed)
Milford Mill – Shell 5 run (pass failed)