No. 1 St. Frances tops Franklin in rare local match; Griffith accounts for 4 TDs (VIDEO HERE!)

St. Frances quarterback John Griffith breaks away from a Franklin defender during Saturday’s non-league football contest. The senior rushed for two scores and threw for two more as the No. 1 Panthers defeated the fifth-ranked Indians at Morgan State University’s Hughes Stadium. (photo – Jimmy Fields Sr.)

by Derek Toney

As St. Frances Academy football coach Messay Hailemariam celebrated with his players after a water bucket dumping late Saturday afternoon, Franklin fans came to their feet as Gavin Nelson landed with the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. 

The scoreboard at Morgan State University’s Hughes Stadium read: St. Frances 47, Franklin 6. 

But, it was a double victory…of sorts.

“Why not give the kids an opportunity. Some of them will never play on a college football field,” said Indians coach Anthony Burgos. “This is an opportunity to play here against a quality team and see what they’re made of. I asked my guys at halftime if  they were mad at me, and they said absolutely not.” 

“Kudos to Franklin for showing the gusto to be able to say ‘hey I believe in my kids,’” said Hailemariam. “It should be an example for everybody else.”

Hailemariam was surprised when Burgos contacted him in June about playing a game. Since morphing into a national power a few years ago, St. Frances has been an independent member of the MIAA after A Conference schools in the spring of 2018 opted not to play the East Baltimore school, citing safety and competitive imbalance concerns.

1,392 days later after beating Gilman School in the 2017 A Conference final, St. Frances lined up against a Baltimore-area school.

“It’s great seeing a Baltimore team and seeing a Baltimore crowd,” said Panther senior defensive end Derrick Moore. 

For the several hundred in attendance Saturday, the game was far from memorable. Despite drawing more than a dozen penalties, St. Frances’ size and speed was too much for the perennial Baltimore County public school stronghold.

Senior quarterback John Griffth, who’s committed to Bowling Green University, threw for two scores and ran for two more for the Panthers (1-1 overall), ranked 24th in the latest MaxPreps national poll. Michael Vincent and Lamar Patterson had receiving scores while Aaron Ashe and DeJuan Williams each had a running score. 

St. Frances led 27-0 at halftime.

Franklin (1-1), the area’s most successful public program over the last 10 years (three Class 3A state titles), was able to move the ball at times against the Panthers’ defense. The Reisterstown school crossed St. Frances’ territory in the opening quarter after a 34-yard pass from quarterback Quentin Demery to Nelson, but a sack by Moore, followed by a holding penalty on Franklin, derailed the drive.

In the second quarter, a pass interference call against the Panthers placed the Indians at St. Frances’ 33-yard line before the drive stalled. With a running clock in the second half, Franklin went 69 yards in 11 plays with Demery finding Nelson on the final play. 

Demery said Franklin welcomed playing “David” to St. Frances’ “Goliath.”

“We were a little shaky in the first quarter, but as we got into the second, we got the nerves out,”  said Demery, who was pleased with his team’s kickoff unit. “The fourth quarter hit, it was time to move the ball.”

“For us to score on the last drive shows me that, moving forward, this team has a drive,” said Burgos, who has challenged his team against the likes of Calvert Hall College, McDonogh and Mount St. Joseph as well as perennial Prince George’s County powers Henry A. Wise and DeMatha Catholic the last 10 years.

It was the first victory of 2021 for St. Frances, which lost to Florida power St. Thomas Aquinas in Miami three weeks ago. It was also the first win in Hailemariam’s second stint as Panthers coach after serving as director of operation the previous four seasons..

“When we played in Florida, we didn’t get as many as flags, but we had turnovers so that part was sloppy,” said Hailemariam, whose team plays at Washington Catholic Athletic Conference stronghold Good Counsel, Friday in Montgomery County. “Outside of that, I was impressed with how they performed and gave me a great birthday gift.”

No. 1 St. Frances Academy 47, No. 5 Franklin 6

at Morgan State University

Franklin 0 0 0 6 – 6

St. Frances 20 7 13 7 – 47

First quarter

St. Frances – John Griffith 45 run (kick failed)

St. Frances – Griffith 11 run (Andre Jandayan kick)

St. Frances – Durrell Robinson 13 run (Jandayan kick)

Second quarter

St. Frances – Lamar Patterson 54 pass from Griffith (Jandayan kick)

Third quarter

St. Frances – Michael Vincent 34 pass from Griffith (kick failed)

St. Frances – DeJuan Williams 2 run (Jandayan kick)

Fourth quarter

St. Frances – Aaron Ashe 5 run (Jandayan kick)

Franklin – Gavin Nelson 10 pass from Quentin Demery (end of game)