Defense propels No. 7 Franklin past Huntingtown for 3A state football championship berth

by Nelson Coffin

They’re back.

A football program that has become accustomed to making deep postseason runs is on another tear this fall.

Just ask Huntingtown which traveled from Calvert County to Franklin’s campus in Reisterstown on Friday night only to be shut down by the rough-and-tumble Indians, 21-10, in a Class 3A state semifinal.

Coach Anthony Burgos’ squad will meet Linganore on Thursday at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis in an attempt to claim a third state banner.

The Indians (11-2 overall) have split their four championship games, winning in 2013-14 and falling in the 2010 and 2016 finales.

Franklin was eager to return to the title game, and proved as much by ramping up its offense to overcome the Hurricanes’ early 3-0 first-quarter lead.

The seventh-ranked Indians scored three unanswered touchdown in the second period — all on the ground — to take a 21-3 lead at the half.

Junior wideout Corey Crawford scored on a 10-yard jet sweep to get the party started on an eight-play, 76-yard drive drive that featured a 36-yard run by senior running back Elijah Solomon.

Sophomore wideout Daniel Yarborough, after taking a direct snap in the wildcat formation, scored on a 29-yard scamper to push the advantage to 14-3 on a 38-yard drive after Franklin’s fired-up defense pinned the Hurricanes deep in their own territory and forced a short punt.

A 50-yard bomb from Franklin junior quarterback Vernon Brown to senior wideout Joshua Wilson set up the Indians’ final scoring drive.

Wilson gathered in the pass before it popped back in the air, yet he still had the presence of mind to secure the ball as he was being tackled.

That spectacular play was followed by a couple of Solomon runs, and he finally bulled his way into the end zone from the 5-yard line with 29 seconds left before the intermission.

The way the Indians’ defense was playing, it would have been a tall order for Huntingtown (10-3) to get back in the game.

Although the Hurricanes were finally able to score a touchdown late in the third quarter on a 6-yard pass from senior quarterback Hunter Bray to senior wideout Matteo Degennaro, they were running out of time and running against a defense that was on its game.

Solomon, who also plays linebacker, was a thorn in the side of Huntingtown throughout the game, finishing with eight tackles and a forced fumble.

And if you think those are nice numbers, they pale in comparison to his fellow senior linebacker Jay Thompson, who finished with 13 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack.

They also had plenty of help from senior defensive lineman Robert Garrett and junior defensive lineman Montre Harris.

“Every time he (Bray) he went back to pass, they were in his face,” said Frankin defensive coordinator Bret Hain. “Jay and Elijah have been with us for four years. They picked a great night to step up.”

Hair said that his defense is fast and physical.

“They really fly around out there and are very aggressive,” he added. “And we really feed off that.”

Thompson said that he and Solomon took turns ‘spying’ on Bray after the Hurricane signal-caller broke off a long run.

“They had a good team and a very smart team,” Thompson said. “So we just had to keep moving and keep moving.”

Huntingtown coach Paul Friel said that his team’s one bad quarter was an issue it could not overcome.

“We’ve played good defense all year,” he said. “And we did in the first, third and fourth quarter tonight. It’s that second quarter that got us.”

H 3 0 7 0 — 10
F 0 21 0 0 — 21

First quarter
H-Hunter Bray 36 field goal

Second quarter
F-Corey Crawford 10 run (Simon Spaeth kick)
F-Daniel Yarborough 29 run (Spaeth kick)
F-Elijah Solomon 5 run (Spaeth kick)

Third quarter
H-Matteo Degennero 6 pass from Bray (Bray kick)