Seven yards.  That was the collective distance Franklin senior quarterback Joey Dorsey traveled on his four touchdown runs, Friday, helping the Indians enter the state semifinals with a win over North Harford, 28-21.

“We just drove the ball downfield every time,” Dorsey said of the Indian offense, moving the ball more than 300 yards.  “Even when we were behind, we just kept driving the ball, and once we got to the one-yard-line, kept fighting it in.”

By the early snaps of the fourth quarter, Dorsey had broken the endline three times, twice to tie the game, but his biggest touchdown of the night was still to come.

In the final seconds of the game and after being stopped by the North Harford defense on back-to-back plays from inside the four-yard-line, Dorsey tucked his head and steamed forward for the Indians’ first and only lead of the game, 28-21, with just eight ticks on the clock, all but sealing the regional title.

In the huddle before the final push, Dorsey told his linemen exactly what he needed from them.   “I just told the line to give me everything they got and to show me how much heart they had.”

“It was a major effort for all four quarters,” Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said.  “The will to win and the desire to come out and keep playing, the guys did a tremendous job just staying confident and playing championship football.”

The Indians dropped to a 14-0 deficit less than two minutes into the second quarter, as the Hawks’ seniors Cody Turner and Jalen Shaw connected on a sliding touchdown pass-and-catch, and jumped right back on the board when they recovered a muffed kickoff and capped a 32-yard drive with Turner breaking the endzone yet again.

But the lead didn’t bother Franklin, who answered with a 14-play, 63-yard scoring drive to trail the Hawks at the half, 14-7, and continued to trade scores with North Harford to a 21-21 tie in the early goings of the third quarter.

In the Hawks’ third score, North Harford coach Ken Brinkman went into his playbook and pulled out the halfback pass, seeing senior Brandon bayer hit senior Jeremy Skrzypiec on a 27-yard strike down the right sideline.

According to the playoff placement, third seeded Franklin upset the top seed Hawks, Friday, but on the field, the two quality teams battled so closely that it is hard to call it an upset.

The Hawks held the Indians to just 55 yards rushing in the first half, but an explosive senior Mark Venable would power his way through nearly double that distance in the second half, prompting Franklin to 123 rushing yards in the second half.

“First, everything goes to my offensive line,” Venable said.  “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to get the ball out and break those big runs.  

“Ever since the start of the season, coach has been talking about never letting one guy take you down, and I made the first guy miss and the yards came on after that.”

North Harford did their own damage on the ground, seeing seniors Bayer and Ben Kenley lead the Hawks on their 191-yard rushing performance, capped by Turner’s four-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

“Our guys came out, fought and played their rear ends off,” Brinkman said.  “We jumped to a 14-0 lead and knew we were going to have to hang with a very athletic football team.  We made them work for the 28 points they got.  It was a great football game, and its how it should be.

Pasternack“We really only gave up one play in that [final] drive,” he added, saluting Venable’s 34-yard play.  “We moved the ball again and just had a couple miscues that hurt us.  Somebody’s got to lose here, and I’m just sad it’s us.”

But all the yards in the world can only get you so far, and the Franklin defense proved that by coming up huge with three stops on fourth-and-short.

“We had to step up and make big plays and big hits,” junior linebacker Erik Pasternack said.  “Stopping them from getting first downs was how we did it.”

North Harford end’s their previously perfect season 11-1, and will say goodbye to a number of senior stars.

“Our seniors for four years have given us everything they got and it’s going to be hard replacing that backfield,” Brinkman said of the offensive force that was Turner, Bayer and Kenley.  But the Hawks did sport an undefeated junior varsity squad this season.

Franklin has come a long way since the late-summer’s practices, but they have done it all with the same philosophy: going 1-0 every week.

“Our philosophy is going to stay the same.  I told these guys since August 14 that we have to take it one week at a time,” Burgos said.  “So I will go in tomorrow, see who our opponent is, try to work as hard as we can Monday through Wednesday, put it all together Thursday and go out and try to be 1-0 next week.”

Franklin 28, North Harford 21
North Harford
1st Q
NH-Shaw 23 pass from Turner (Lenane kick)
2nd Q
NH-Turner 4 run (Lenane kick)
FRK-Dorsey 2 run (Gibson kick)
3rd Q
FRK-Dorsey 1 run (Gibson kick)
NH-Skrzypiec 27 pass from Bayer (Lenane kick)
4th Q
FRK-Dorsey 3 run (Gibson kick)
FRK-Dorsey 1 run (Gibson kick)