Friday night’s football showdown at Franklin High featuring the host Indians and Catonsville figured to have similarities with the classic Aesop’s Fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” and it lived up to its billing.
Franklin raced to a 14-0 lead and held on for a 35-30 victory.
Franklin and its multiple offensive weapons and big-play potential were hare-like, while the Comets grind-it-out running game was more likely to represent the tortoise.
Sure, the Comets (3-1) have some explosive weapons, including University of Maryland-bound senior DeAndre’ Lane, who came into the game with 500 yards rushing on 65 attempts (7.6 yards per carry) and senior Joseth Hylton arrived with 253 yards on 31 carries (8.1 yards per carry) and a team-high four touchdowns.
But the Indians (2-1) boasted a pair of receivers, Reggie (18.6 yards per catch) and Marquis Ellis (22 yards per catch), who combined for five touchdowns.
They also had a pair of quarterbacks, Jackson Thornton and Jaquez Adams who have thrown for 439 yards and six touchdowns combined.
Thornton continued his solid season as he passed for 207 yards (10-for-24) and three touchdowns aginst the Comets.
Senior receiver Marquis Ellis caught five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown to lead the air assaut.
Freshman Steven Smothers struck first when he hauled in a 42-yard touchdown pass from Thornton on a third-and-15 post pattern, giving the Indians an early 7-0 first-quarter lead after Bryan Bray’s extra point.
With 2:23 left in the quarter, the Indians extended the lead to 14-0 on an 11-yard TD strike from Thornton to Reggie Ellis.
The touchdown was set up by a shovel pass from Thornton to Maurice McFadden that gained 37 yards.
The Comets answered with a pair of big plays — a 48-yard kickoff return by Joseth Hylton and a 28-yard pass from Justin Sprankle.
Four plays later, Lane barreled in from two yards out and Garrett Wack’s extra point made it 14-7 with 1:28 left in the half.
But, Franklin went into its bag of tricks and executed a perfect hook and lateral that began with a 20 yard pass to Reggie Ellis and ended with McFadden gaining the last 25 yards for 40 total yards.
After a 31-yard gain on a jump ball to Marquis Ellis, Kiandre Burrell rambled in from two yards out and the Indians led 21-7 with 8:50 left in the half.
Catonsville responded with 9-play 58-yard drive that started with a 35-yard kickoff return by Lane and ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Sprankle to Hylton and the Comets trailed 21-14 with 3:37 remaining.
Franklin’s next drive ended with an interception by Lane with a minute left until intermission.
But, the Indians marched 70 yards in eight plays on the opening drive of the second half.
A 42-yard quick screen to Reggie Ellis set up a 2-yard touchdown run by McFadden with 8:22 remaining in the third quarter and Indians led 28-14.
After the team’s traded punts, Lane pulled the Comets within seven, 28-21 on a 23-yard touchdown run with 3:19 left in the quarter.
But Smothers returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards and, one play later, the 6-foot-4 Marquise Ellis outleaped 5-5 defender Keon Webb for a 13-yard touchdown catch and the lead was back to 14.
Catonsville answered with a 9-play 52-yard drive that included 48 yards rushing from fullback Julian Singletary.
Hylton ended the drive with a 6-yard TD run.
Catonsville kicker Garrett Wack booted the ball into the endzone on the ensuing kickoff and a high snap resulted in a safety when the Comets T.J. Henry squirted the ball out of the end zone trying to recover a fumble.
Both teams got defensive stops on the next possessions before Catonsville took over on its own 43.
An 18-yard pass from Sprankle to Lane moved the ball to the Franklin 38, but defensive stops from Tyler Webb and Andrew Lawrence forced a fourth and 10 from the 38 and a long pass intended for Lane drifted away and the Indians held on for the victory.
“All week we talked about trying to contain Lane and really just fly to the football,” Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said. “We knew they were going stay with what they do, run the ball well, but we just had to grip down and make those first-down stops and I think that was the key.”
Franklin 35 Catonsville 30
Fra 14 7 14 0 - 35
Cat 0 14 7 9 - 30
F-Smothers 42 pass from Thornton (Bray kick)
F-R. Ellis 11 pass from Thornton (Bray kick)
C-Lane 2 run (Wack kick)
F-Brown 2 run (Bray kick)
C-Hylton 4 pass from Sprankle (Wack kick)
F-McFadden 2 run (Bray kick)
C-Lane 23 run (Wack kick)
F-M. Ellis 13 pass from Thornton (Bray kick)
C-Hylton 6 run (Wack kick)