Long on talent, short on resolve. It’s been a criticism of Franklin High’s football team the past several seasons. When the Indians dropped back-to-back games late in the season after a 7-0 start, those whispers grew.

Friday night, Franklin answered its so-called detractors with one resounding statement: Come see us at M & T Bank Stadium.

The fourth-ranked Indians secured their first trip to the state title game since 1978, rallying for a 15-14 victory over Huntingtown in a Class 3A state semifinal contest before overflow audience at McWilliams Stadium in Reisterstown. Franklin (11-2) will play No. 11 Wilde Lake for the crown Thursday evening at 7 at “The Big ATM.”

Senior running back Mark Venable put down Indians’ title game deposit with a two-yard touchdown run as time expired for their second last second win in as many contests. The Baltimore County school scored with 21 seconds remaining to end North Harford’s unbeaten season, 28-21, for the North Region crown.

“I can’t say more for their character and enthusiasm, and they brought to this team,” said Franklin coach Anthony Burgos. “Every game, every day, they come to work. When we were down 14, I told them you got to believe in what we’re doing; believe in what we’re doing and results will follow.”

The Indians scored on their final two possessions including the game-winning 12-play, 61-yard drive with no timeouts left. It was the seniors, Joey Dorsey and Venable, who answered the call.

Dorsey opened the drive with passes to Marquis Ellis and Reggie Ellis, getting the Indians inside Huntingtown (9-4) terrority. On fourth and three from the Hurricanes’ 28, Franklin converted a first down by the nose of the football as Venable stretched the ball to the 25.

“The offensive line did a good job all night and I saw the seam,” said Venable. “I was actually kind of short, so I stuck my arm out.”

Dorsey eluded pressure in the pocket and ran down the sidelines for a 19-yard gain to the 6 with 1:10 left in regulation. Two carries by junior Anthony Taylor advanced the ball to the 1 before Dorsey was stopped for a one-yard loss.

With their season down to one play, the Indians turned to Venable, who took a pitch from Dorsey, cut in and crossed the end zone for the game winner. Venable, a transfer from Archbishop Curley, finished with 131 yards on 27 carries.

“All the credit goes to the offensive line, they carried us the whole game,” said Venable, who also plays linebacker. “Joey Dorsey came through and the whole Franklin atmosphere, that’s it.”

“Run after run, he got it done,” said Dorsey.

Thanks to a safety, Dorsey and the Franklin offense mounted the comeback. Dorsey, who will play baseball for LaSalle, connected with Navassa Brown for 54 yards, and Dorsey followed with a 1-yard dive for the Indians’ first points with 4:45 remaining in regulation.

Dorsey, who brought Franklin from an early 14-0 deficit and 21-14 going into the fourth quarter last week against North Harford, was confident the Indians would rebound.

“The ball kept slipping out of my hands,” said Dorsey. “At the end, I told my team I wasn’t going to let them down.”

Franklin drove three times into Huntingtown’s terrority in the opening half, coming up empty each time. The Indians’ got to the Hurricanes’ 15 in the second quarter, but a low snap got by Dorsey and Huntingtown recovered at its 30.

The Hurricanes, looking to get back to the state finals after falling to Linganore a year ago, got great field position on their opening possession of the second half at Franklin’s 35. On fourth-and-3 from the 14, Huntingtown pulled back on a field goal attempt and Andrew Bose broke through a hole for a 13-yard gain. Bose finished the drive with a 1-yard plunge with 6:53 left in the third quarter.

Huntingtown extended the advantage to 14-0 after Bose’s second one-yard score iced a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Nick Ersoy keyed the drive with 35-yard run to the Franklin’s 1.

“They [Huntingtown] grinded it out and wear you down,” said Burgos. “We had plenty of opportunities in the first half to put some points up.”

joey dorsey, reggie ellis, mark venableThe Indians wasted another chance, advancing from their 30 to Huntingtown’s 16. Dorsey’s completion to Ian Thomas on fourth-and-13, netted 11 yards.

With momentum in its favor, as well as the ball with 7:35 left, Huntingtown went three and out. On fourth down, Huntingtown lost the ball out of bounds after a bad punt snap for a safety. The Hurricanes never recovered.

“Their lines were outstanding this evening. We didn’t see their line as being physical and aggressive,” said Huntingtown coach Jerry Franks. “We have the upmost for their skill players, but we didn’t see the performance by the line in the film that we saw tonight.”

A run to the state finals didn’t appear possible after Franklin were upset by Parkville, following its first loss to Hereford. Burgos said the Parkville loss was the defining moment of the season.

Now, the Indians are a win away from a state championship.

“People have said Franklin can’t win in the playoffs or win in the cold,” said Dorsey. “We just told all those people who doubted us that they we can win and we’re going to win the 3A championship.”


No. 4 Franklin 15, Huntingtown 14
3rd Q
H-Bose 1 run (Smith kick)
H-Bose 1 run (Smith kick)
4th Q
F-Safety (ball fumbled out of end zone)
F-Dorsey 1 run (Gibson kick)
F-Venable 2 run (game over)