Mistakes, Damascus bring stop to Franklin’s reign in 3A state football (VIDEO HERE!)
by Derek Toney
Franklin football coach Anthony Burgos turned to the sidelines late in regulation of Friday’s Class 3A state quarterfinal.
Some of his players sat dejectedly on the bench or were knelt on the sidelines with heads bowed. Some were crying.
Burgos called the entire team over to midfield at the sidelines. He told them how proud he was and the effort put forth all season.
There won’t be another Thanksgiving morning practice and or bus ride to Annapolis for the No. 4 Indians. Damascus ended Franklin’s season with a 30-13 victory in Montgomery County.
Junior running back Chris Shaw rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns for the Hornets (10-2 overall), and Austin Ambush returned an interception 90 yards for a score. Senior Deon Houston had a 70-yard pick-six for Franklin (9-3).
The Indians were resilient, but a series of gut-punching miscues were too much overcome against Damascus, ranked No. 9 in the latest state media poll. The Hornets will play at Southern Maryland’s Huntingtown in a 3A state semifinal Thanksgiving Friday evening.
Before the coin flip, Franklin players ran onto Damascus’ weather worn Bermudagrass field, some saying “The Champ is Here.”
About three hours later, the champs were gone. But not without a fight.
“We talked all season about battling and believing in each other…there was no quit in them, said Burgos. “They kept fighting that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
“We just persevere,” said Houston, a senior defensive back. “The whole season we knew we had to step it up once playoffs come. Tonight, they [Damascus] outplayed us.”
The Hornets converted three Franklin mistakes into 16 points, and led 23-0 in the third quarter before interception return got Franklin on the board. The Indians still had life with four minutes left in regulation after Alex Jones’ 9-yard touchdown reception from Vernon Brown made it 23-13. Franklin failed on a two-point conversion that would gave it a chance to tie with another touchdown and two-point conversion.
Once 6-foot-5, 290-pound Bryan Bresee shedded several Franklin defenders on the way to the end zone on 4th-and-4 for a 34-yard touchdown with a minute left in regulation, Franklin’s title reign was officially over. The Indians did a respectable job in the trenches against Bresee, the country’s No. 1 defensive player and arguably the overall No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2020, who will play for reigning national champion Clemson University next season.
But like the 2015 3A title game against the Montgomery County squad at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Franklin spent most of Friday evening bandaging self-inflicted wounds.
It started midway in the first quarter with a punt snap sailing nearly two feet over Zack Kaplan’s head and out the end zone for a safety. Thanks to a bad Damascus punt snap, Franklin got possession around midfield, and reached the Hornets’ 15-yard line.
With time running out in the quarter, Franklin fumbled and Damascus’ Timothy Furguson recovered. The Hornets marched 83 yards in nine plays with Shaw easily hitting the end zone from a yard out with seven minutes, nine seconds left in the second quarter.
Franklin marched into Damascus’ territory on the ensuing drive, but Brown was intercepted by Malik Sabri. The Indians’ defense kept the damage minimal, but the unit didn’t get a chance to save the offense before halftime.
Franklin advanced the ball from its 30 to Damascus’ 43, then Brown threw a pass across the middle where Ambush was waiting around the 10. He angled to Damascus sidelines and sprinted untouched to the end zone for a touchdown with 12 seconds left.
“We made too many costly mistakes. The safety in the beginning and even simple things…we had a great run and we didn’t controlled our composure and got a personal foul,” said Burgos, whose team was shutout in the first half for the first time this season. “We had some mental breakdowns…when you’re playing a good team that executes the way they execute, it’s not going to go well.”
On the first play of the second half, Shaw broke through the second level and jaunted to the end zone for a 83-yard score, extending Damascus’ advantage to 23-0. Franklin, after another promising series, turned the ball over on downs, but Houston intercepted Michael O’Neil’s short throw and went down Damascus sidelines to the end zone for the Indians’ first score.
“When I saw the quarterback rolled out and saw the tight end doing an out-route…I visualized it all last night,” said Houston. “It just happened in slow motion.”
The Indians’ offense finally cobbled a scoring drive in the fourth, going 71 yards in 11 plays with Jones capturing Brown’s throw around the 2 and slipping into the end zone. The Indians went for two, but Furguson blitzed Brown, who spun out his grasp before falling to the grass.
“Coach was telling us all week as we go deeper in the playoffs we can’t get away with silly stuff like penalties, drop balls or wrong routes like we did in previous weeks against weaker teams,” said Felton. “We knew Damascus was going to bring its A-game because they’re not trying to go home either.”
As his players slowly gathered their belongings on Damascus track late Friday evening, Burgos said the goal was to repeat and win a fourth state in seven seasons. The Indians, whose only losses before Friday were to MIAA A champ Mount St. Joseph and MIAA A finalist McDonogh School, won the Baltimore County 3A title this season.
“They’ve done a lot of good things. It’s unfortunate, but there’s life lessons I think they’ll learn from this,” said Burgos.
“We’ve been playing together for four years and became closer and closer,” said Houston, one of 27 seniors. “We really love each and winning a state championship was the goal. For us to come up short, it just hits 10 times harder.”
CLASS 3A STATE FOOTBALL QUARTERFINAL
Damascus 30, No. 4 Franklin 13
Franklin 0 0 7 6 – 13
Damascus 9 7 7 7 – 30
Damascus – Safety (Franklin punt snap out of end zone)
Damascus – Chris Shaw 1 run (Junior Baires kick)
Damascus – Austin Ambush 90 interception return (Baires kick)
Damascus – Shaw 83 run (Baires kick)
Franklin – Deon Houston 70 interception return (Simon Spath kick)
Franklin – Alex Jones 9 pass from Vernon Brown (Brown sacked)
Damascus – Bryan Bresee 34 run (Baires kick)