Franklin smothers No. 8 Dundalk for 3A state football final four spot

Dundalk’s De’jion Meredith (in green) is smothered by Franklin’s Jay Thompson (left), David Daymon (45) and Elijah Solomon during the third quarter of Friday’s Class 3A North Region football final. The No. 7 Franklin scored the game’s first 35 points en route to a 42-7 decision in Baltimore County.

by Derek Toney

After an early postseason exit last season, Franklin High football appeared to be a crossroads. A year later, the Indians are back in a familiar place.

No. 7 Franklin defeated 8th-ranked and host Dundalk, 42-7, to win the Class 3A North Region title Friday. Senior Elijah Solomon had a rushing touchdown and blocked a punt for the Indians (10-2 overall) and Daniel Yarborough added a rushing score and interception.

The Reisterstown school ceased momentum early, inducing a running clock for most of the second half to win its first region title since 2016. Franklin will host South Region champ Huntingtown from Calvert County in a 3A state semifinal Friday at 7 p.m., for a spot in the Nov. 29 state final at Navy.

The Indians are a win away from a fifth trip to the championship round since 2010, thanks to a dominating effort against Dundalk (10-2), which they shared the Baltimore County Division I title with Milford Mill Academy. Last week, Franklin won at Milford Mill, which reached last year’s state final.

“We talked about being a complete team and these guys have bonded with each other,” said Indians coach Anthony Burgos, whose team avenged an overtime loss to Milford Mill in the regular season with last week’s triumph. “Like I told them I really see a lot of growth the last three weeks, but really understanding that team concept.”

Six different players found the end zone as Jonathan Smith and Shane King each had rushing scores, and Corey Crawford caught a 21-yard scoring pass from Vernon Brown. Montre Harris returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.

The Indians defeated Dundalk, 37-22, during the regular season, but Solomon said his team is much different now.

“We’ve grown more as a family,” said Solomon. “Our bond is getting stronger. We would die for each other, no matter what adversity we faced.”

Solomon, a Villanova University commit and one of the area’s top two-way performers, set the tenor Friday. The 6-foot, 220-pounder broke through the line and got to Dundalk punter Will Kelly’s attempt around the Owls’ 30-yard line.┬áThe ball rolled to the 7 where Harris scooped it up and ran into the end zone.

The Indians, set up by Solomon’s 45-yard rumble, got their first offensive score early in the second as Smith scored from six yards. Franklin’s defense forced Owl quarterback Treshawn Ray to fumble and Robert Garrett recovered at Dundalk’s 31.

Two plays later, Crawford caught a quick slant pass from Brown and went untouched into the end zone, extending Franklin’s lead to 21-0. A 42-yard run by Solomon paved the way for Yarborough’s 1-yard touchdown with a minute left in the opening half.

“We wanted to come right away and be explosive,” said Burgos. “We felt if we made something happen early on special teams and get momentum, things would go our way.”

Yarborough, who ended the first half with an interception, took the opening second half kickoff 92 yards. Solomon got in the end zone from a yard out and started a running clock at the 11:32 mark.

Dundalk got its only score on Ray’s 19-yard touchdown throw to senior Marquis Marable with 8:50 left in the third. Franklin immediately answered with a 7-play, 68-yard drive, with King pushing his way into the end zone from one yard.

The Owls, who ran off seven straight victories to reach their first region final since 2015, was in reel mode for most of the game Friday.

“We ran into a buzzsaw. They capitalized on big plays,” said Dundalk second-year coach Matt Banta, whose team doubled its win output from last season (5-5). “When they get rolling, they’re tough.”

Last year, Franklin lost to Edgewood in the North Region opener, capping a season of dysfunction. The Indians, who hoisted 3A titles trophy in 2013 and 2014, hadn’t lost a state postseason first round match since 2011.

Burgos said the program “had to find our roots again,” and recommit. The Indians will get to practice Thanksgiving morning.

Montre Harris (left) return score off teammate Elijah Solomon’s blocked punt got things rolling for Franklin, which won the North Region title for the first time. The Indians host southern Maryland’s Huntingtown in a 3A state semifinal Friday evening in Reisterstown.

“My 10th grade year we went all the way, then last year we got cut short,” said Solomon. “It feels good ot get redemption and carry on the Franklin legacy.”

Class 3A North Region championship

No. 7 Franklin 42, No. 8 Dundalk 7

Franklin 7 21 7 7 – 42

Dundalk 0 0 0 7 – 7

First quarter

Franklin – Montre Harris 7 punt block return (Simon Spath kick)

Second quarter

Franklin – Jonathan Smith 5 run (Spath kick)

Franklin – Corey Crawford 21 pass from Vernon Brown (Spath kick)

Franklin – Daniel Yarborough 1 run (Spath kick)

Third quarter

Franklin – Elijah Solomon 1 run (Spath kick)

Fourth quarter

Dundalk – Marquis Marable 19 pass from Treshawn Ray (Will Kelly kick)

Franklin – Shane King 1 run (Spath kick)