Class 3A State Championship
No. 5 Wilde Lake (10-3) vs. No. 3 Franklin (11-2)
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: M & T Bank Stadium
ROAD TO M & T BANK
Wilde Lake: defeated Atholton and River Hill (13-7) to win East Region; defeated Damascus, 21-14, in state semifinals
Franklin: defeated Hereford (43-14) and North Harford (28-21) to win North Region; defeated Huntingtown, 15-14, in state semifinals
Wilde Lake-Joe Kelly: 34 of 75, 550 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs; Franklin-Joey Dorsey: 106 of 204, 2,013 yards, 19 TDs, 7 INTs
Wilde Lake-Khalil Viera: 144 carries, 1,029 yards, 8 TDs; Franklin-Mark Venable: 172 carries, 1,067 yards, 11 TDs
Wilde Lake-Jordan Mynatt: 11 catches, 135 yards, 1 TD & E’ron Pruitt: 8 catches, 187 yards, 4 TDs; Franklin: Ian Thomas: 46 catches, 899 yards, 13 TDs
Wilde Lake-Khalil Viera: 13; Franklin-Ian Thomas: 18
Wilde Lake-Devin McCoy: 91; Franklin-Mark Venable: 145
Wilde Lake-Erik Smith: 6; Franklin-Jamal Ibrahim and Anthony Taylor: 4 each
Wilde Lake-Jordan Mynatt: 4; Franklin-Mark Venable: 2
Other than those involved with Franklin and Wilde Lake’s football programs, no one figured the Wildecats and Indians would be the last ones standing for the Class 3A state championship.
Neither team entered the postseason with the proverbial full head of steam. The 16-team 3A field was arguably the toughest of the four classification with defending state champ Linganore, Damascus, the state’s No. 1 team, Westlake (2008 3A champ), Quince Orchard (2007 4A champ, ranked top 10 in state), River Hill (state 2A champ in 2007 and 2008) as well as undefeated North Harford and surging Hereford.
To steal an old adage, “That’s why they play the games,” and No. 3 Franklin and fifth-ranked Wilde Lake will play for the state championship. It’s fair to say their path to downtown Baltimore has been surprising.
Wilde Lake has won all its postseason games on the road, including a 21-14 decision at Damascus last weekend. Franklin has won its last two games in the final seconds as the Reisterstown school clinched its title game spot on the final play of regulation against Huntingtown last Friday.
Franklin’s defense vs. Wilde Lake’s offense
Wilde Lake will look to control the tempo with its deep running back unit with Khalil Viera, EJ Gilman, Terrell Nickens and AJ Harris. The Wildecats have rushed for 710 yards in the postseason as Viera has 263 yards and two scores.
After giving up two scoring drives to start the second half including an 80-yard series, Franklin’s defense held Huntingtown to two yards the rest of the way, allowing the Indians’ offense to come back. Mark Venable led Franklin’s defense with 11 tackles with Erik Pasternak adding 10.
If the Wilde Lake offensive front of Teka Hayes (6-feet, 265 poungs), Matt Holdefer (6-3, 210), Darien Williams (6-0, 200), Eric Handy (6-0, 200), Griffin Guardala (6-2, 215) gets command at the point of contact, the Wildecats can shorten the game and keep Franklin’s offense on the sidelines.
Franklin’s defense will have to create turnovers or put Wilde Lake in passing situations. Wildecats quarterback Joe Kelly can make throws downfield, but the Howard County school passes occasionally to set up short yardage situations instead of getting out long yardage dilemmas.
Franklin’s offense vs. Wilde Lake’s defense
Franklin has an array of weapons from quarterback Joey Dorsey to Venable to Ian Thomas on the perimeter to Navassa Brown. The Indians like to establish the run with Venable then take shots downfield.
They have sputtered at times, but have shown fortitude in scoring late in regulation for victory the past two weeks. Venable scored on a two-yard run on the final play, sending Franklin past Huntingtown last weekend.
Wilde Lake forced five Damascus turnovers last weekend, including a pair of interceptions by senior Nick Pelletier. The Wildecats have 10 in the postseason.
Wilde Lake will have to keep Franklin’s big-play strikes to a minimum. The Indians, however, were shutout for three quarters by Huntingtown and were able to cobble together two fourth quarter scores.
Both teams are riding a wave of confidence. Wilde Lake avenged regular season losses to Atholton and River Hill with wins in the East Regionals before pulling off the stunner of the tournament winning at Damascus, the state’s No. 1 team and 3A title favorite. Franklin blew out Hereford (avenging regular season loss) before edging North Harford and last year’s state 3A finalist Huntingtown.
This is the first state finals for Franklin since 1978 when the Indians fell to Friendly from Prince George’s County in the Class A finals. Wilde Lake’s been the state finals six times, but this is the first without longtime coach Doug DuVall, who retired after the 2008 3A title game, ending a 36-year run.
Wilde Lake is the last area program to win the 3A title (1997).