The odds were stacked against Franklin High’s football team Friday night against Hereford in the Class 3A North Region semifinals.

The No. 5 Bulls had a nine-game winning streak. Hereford hasn’t loss to Franklin in nearly two decades including a victory in the region title game last season.

Three weeks ago, the Bulls topped Franklin, 14-6, behind a 234-yard performance by Vince DePaola. The Indians finished their regular season losing two of their last three.

But it’s the playoffs a.k.a. the second season, and on this night, No. 17 Franklin was a team motivated and determined to pull off the unthinkable. Using crafty playing calling and capitalizing on turnovers, the No. 18 Indians pulled off a stunning 47-14 decision in Parkton.

Franklin (9-2 overall) raced out to a 20-0 first half lead as the Reisterstown school advanced to the region championship game against No. 4 and undefeated North Harford next weekend. North Harford defeated Catonsville, 15-6, in the other semifinal contest Friday evening.

After being attacked up the middle by Hereford’s defense in the last meeting, Franklin adjusted, allowing its array of skill players to flourished. 

“We worked on our blitz pick up and did lot of interior stuff,” said Franklin coach Anthony Burgos, whose team presented with a gratifying win on his 34th birthday. “We knew Hereford would bring something new. We figured if we can pick up the blitz and give our wide receivers opportunity to make some plays, we were going to have a big day.”

Joey Dorsey completed 10 of 15 passes for 173 yards and three touchdown passes, two to junior wideout Ian Thomas. Senior running back Mark Venable rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns and returned a fumble 33 yards for another touchdown.

The Indians set the tone immediately with a three-and-out on defense. In the last meeting, Hereford took the opening kickoff and ran the ball downfield for a touchdown.

Franklin cashed in on its first drive as on a fourth and long, Dorsey connected with Thomas for a 25-yard touchdown. After recovering a Hereford (9-2) fumble, the Indians extended the lead to 14-0 as Venable completed an eight-play drive with a three-yard score.

Thomas and Dorsey hooked up for a 34-yard scoring pass play, sending Franklin into half with a 20-0 cushion. Fullback Anthony Taylor set up the drive with a 37-yard run.

The lead grew to 27-0 as Thomas picked up a Bulls fumble and returned it 30 yards for another score. DePaola got Hereford on the scoreboard with a 19-yard touchdown run, and Greg Fultz threw a 22-yard pass to Isaiah Taylor, bringing Hereford within striking distance at 27-14.

Venable was big for the Indians in the second half, responding to Taylor’s score with a six-yard scamper. Franklin forced another Hereford turnover on the ensuing kickoff, leading to a Dorsey 33-yard touchdown pass to Navassa Brown.

“I challenged [Joey] Dorsey this week as a quarterback and told him the team goes through you,” said Burgos. “He accepted the challenge and he did a tremendous job all week.”

Franklin’s defense did a solid controlling DePaola and running mate Tim Bristol. Venable had a team-high 14 tackles with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, and Erik Pasternack added 13 tackles. Josh Sherer (nine tackles) and Josh Sherer had a forced fumble and fumble recovery, respectively. 

“He [DePaola] doesn’t stop, we just wanted to try and contain him,” said Burgos. “He rushed for over 200 yards [in first game] and we still felt we were in the ball game, so we wanted to keep him inside that margin, then it would be a win for us.”

It was a sudden and disappointing end for Hereford, which regular season was turnaround with a comeback win over Eastern Tech, sparking the nine-game surge. The Bulls committed five turnovers Friday evening.

“Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, we have to take care of the [football],” said Bulls coach Steve Turnbaugh. “We gave them many options and great field position, and Franklin came to play, no question about it.”

And a season that appeared to be heading off track has regained traction for Franklin.

“Since the beginning of the year we said we were going to write our story, and winning here is one of the biggest chapters of our story,” said Venable.


No. 17 Franklin 47, No. 5 Hereford 14
1st Q
F-Thomas 25 pass from Dorsey (Gibson kick)
F-Venable 2 run (Gibson kick)
2nd Q
F-Thomas 34 pass from Dorsey (kick failed)
3rd Q
F-Thomas 30 fumble return (Gibson kick)
H-DePaola 19 run (Ruark kick)
H-Taylor 22 pass from Fultz (Ruark kick)
F-Venable 6 run (run failed)
F-Brown 34 pass from Dorsey (Gibson kick)
F-Venable 33 fumble return (Gibson kick)