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Last-second field goal lifts No. 21 Franklin past No. 14 Linganore for 3A title

Franklin reacts to Simon Spath’s game-winning 30-yard field goal, which gave the Indians their third 3A title in seven years. Photo by Austin McFadden.

ANNAPOLIS — The sheer idea, even a fantasized one, that Franklin and Coach Anthony Burgos would be in this very moment one year later, tussling at center stage of Navy-Marine Corps Stadium for the sacred hardware, appeared far-fetched and unlikely. Internal struggles took its toll. The Indians were ousted in the first round of the playoffs, then expected returnees bailed and transferred to neighboring schools, namely starting quarterback Emmett Avery II, who enrolled at Baltimore private power St. Frances instead of Franklin.

Besides, Linganore and Milford Mill, which played under these bright lights a full high school football season ago, destined to set up a sequel, returning its respective cores coupled with playoff experience. But Burgos continued to weed and toil while maintaining a certain level of belief in these Indians, and here they were, 30 yards and two seconds away from this jubilant rise from rift raft to prominence. Kicker Simon Spath readied, the holder received the snap and teed it up, and Spath booted through the game-winning 30-yard field goal to lift No. 21 Franklin past No. 14 Linganore, 17-14, to claim the 3A title.

Players and coaches spilled onto the turf, hugging one another, jumping uncontrollably, sharing the wooden plaque that signified this transformation.

“We talked about all year: perseverance, overcoming any obstacles we had early in the year and throughout our season,” Burgos said. “These guys really embodied the whole process of showing how a team sticks together [anything is] possible.”

“I’ll tell you, [the transfers], I think that’s what fueled our fire,” Burgo added. “There were a couple other things prior to that, along those same lines, guys leaving ship and not believing in the process we were doing. … Guys really stepped up. Talking about guys, Vernon Brown (9 of 18 for 196 yards, one TD and three INTs), he did a tremendous job.”

Brown, who was supposed to be the backup quarterback coming into this season, commanded the reins and helped seal the deal in this memorable title march. After Linganore maintained a 7-0 lead through one quarter, Brown uncorked a beautiful 69-yard bomb to receiver Mekai Felton (139 yards on seven receptions) to tie it at 7-7 three minutes into the second quarter. On the following series, he connected with Felton twice more for gains of 26 and 15 to plate an eight-yard scoring run by Villanova commit Elijah Solomon (69 yards on 18 carries). That gave Franklin a 14-7 lead, which later became a 14-14 game when Linganore’s Joey Felton converted a ballsy, tailback-direct-snap end-around on fourth-and-8 from 18 yards with 4:50 left in regulation.

In between, Linganore had left the door open — having four empty trips inside the Indians’ 25-yard-line, including a fumble at the goal-line in the waning seconds of the first half, which would have tied the game at 14-14. “It was just a blessing from God.” Solomon said. “The momentum change was just tremendous.”

Solomon and his stifling front-seven did what they needed to do — holding Linganore leading rusher Davon Butler to just 55 yards on 16 carries (3.4 yards per carry) and the Lancers to 156 rushing yards on 46 attempts (3.5 yards per attempt). Linganore, meanwhile, will say it didn’t capitalize on its opportunities. On the Lancers’ first offensive possession, they drove down to the Indian 22, but Bennett Formulak’s 39-yard field goal banged off the front end of the upright. Linganore scored on its second offensive series — when Butler took a short pass from quarterback Ryan Leyh (10 0f 21 for 123 yards passing; 31 yards on 17 rushing attempts) for a 34-yard score to go ahead by seven. Of Linganore’s 11 drives, eight entered plus territory. Yet, the Lancers had 14 points to show for.

“We had our chances,” said Linganore coach Rick Conner, who drops to 3-4 in state title games as a head coach. “Defensively, we got better as the game went on. We just fell short. We just didn’t score enough points.”

“We had a lot of opportunities and we just didn’t capitalize on them,” said Felton, who finished with 89 total yards on 10 touches.

The Indians made sure to cash in on theirs. Leading up to the final drive, Brown had thrown three interceptions, but Burgos relentlessly tried to exile those bad thoughts from Brown’s memory: “Hey, we’re going to need you to make one more special throw,” the coach told his quarterback before what would be the game’s conclusive series.

Brown then delivered on third-and-10, a 32-yard bullet up the field to receiver Corey Crawford, launching them to the Linganore 30 with roughly 90 seconds remaining. Seventeen yards and 88 seconds later, Spath sailed the legendary kick through the uprights and championship elation ensued.

“You never know, in this game of football when you’re name is going to be called,” Burgos said. “Then that happened, and it led us to a state championship. It’s all about the process at Franklin High School: believe in one another, believe we can accomplish anything and [special] things can happen.”

Boxscore

F — 0 14 0 3 — 17

L — 7 0 0 7 — 14

First quarter

L: Butler 34 pass from Leyh (Formulak kick), 7-0 1:52

Second quarter

F: Felton 69 pass from Brown (Spath kick), 7-7 9:43

F: Solomon 8 run (Spath kick), 14-7 6:33

Third quarter

None

Fourth quarter

L: Felton 18 run (Formulak kick), 14-14 4:50

F: Spath 30 field goal, 17-14 0:00

 

Total yards: Linganore 279, Franklin 270

First downs: Linganore 17, Franklin 10

Third downs: Linganore 8 of 17, Franklin 3 of 11

Fourth downs: Franklin 1 of 1, Linganore 2 of 4

Passing — F: Brown 9 of 18 for 196 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs … L: Leyh 10 of 21 for 123 yards and 1 TD, Felton 0 of 1

Rushing — F: Solomon 18-69, 1 TD, 16 long; King 4-7, 4 long; Morante 2-5, 4 long; Brown 3-minus 5, 2 long; Mosley 2-2, 5 long; Crawford 1-minus 1; Nelson 1-2, 2 long; Smith 1-0; TEAM 31-74 (2.4 yards per carry) … L: Butler 16-55, 16 long; Felton 4-33, 1 TD, 18 long; Leyh 17-31, 9 long; Bruscia 6-29, 12 long; McClure 1-4, 4 long; Ambush 2-4, 1 fumble; TEAM 46-156 (3.4 yards per carry)

Receiving — F: Felton 6-139, 1 TD, 69 long; Crawford 2-45, 32 long; King 1-6, 6 long … L: Felton 6-56, 36 long; Butler 2-47, 1 TD, 34 long; Wills 1-9, 9 long; Bruscia 1-2, 2 long

 

Press conferences

Franklin: Mekai Felton, Elijah Solomon, Simon Spath and Coach Anthony Burgos (from left to right)

Kyle McFadden on Twitter

Kyle McFadden @k_fadd

Kyle McFadden (@k_fadd). Journalist. Disciple. Entrepreneur. Storyteller. C/O of Maryland Sports Access. Contribute: The Baltimore Sun, The Frederick News-Post.

Linganore: Joey Felton, Ryan Leyh and Coach Rick Conner (from left to right)

Kyle McFadden on Twitter

Kyle McFadden @k_fadd

Kyle McFadden (@k_fadd). Journalist. Disciple. Entrepreneur. Storyteller. C/O of Maryland Sports Access. Contribute: The Baltimore Sun, The Frederick News-Post.

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