Catonsville High celebrated senior night, but it was visiting Franklin that enjoyed a 56-14 victory on a cold Friday night in Catonsville.
While the Comets' (4-6) streak of playoffs appearances ended at three years in a row, help could be on the way with several players from the Class 3A-4A junior varsity champions.
Meanwhile, Franklin (8-2) will focus its attention on its eighth consecutive playoff appearance, thanks to a dominating performance from sophomore Steven Smothers.
The top-seeded Indians will host a playoff game on Nov. 15.
Smothers scored three touchdowns in the final 2:53 of the first half in a variety of ways.
He had a 75-yard punt return, 37-yard pass reception and 48-yard run on a reverse that was the pivotal play of the game before halftime.
Franklin led, 21-7, when Catonsville senior Jake Smuck intercepted a pass and returned it 15 yards with 4:28 left in the half.
Smuck returned to the sidelines and celebrated with a rejuvenated Comet squad that fed off his energy.
On the next play, senior quarterback Joey Getzendanner connected on a 47-yard deep post to senior Teddy Crayton.
Three plays later, senior Devonte Gardner scored from four yards out and Garrett Wack’s extra point made it 21-14.
On the next Franklin series, the Indians were faced with third and eight from the Comet 48, following strong defensive stops from seniors Calloway Lee and Adam Dye, on first down, and Antwan Pearson on second down.
After a Catonsville timeout, Smothers cut inside the contain end on a reverse and raced to paydirt.
“I just cut up and made a play,” said Smothers, who was in playoff mode after the Comets cut the lead to 21-14 “It’s playoff time and big players make big time plays in big games.”
Bryan Bray’s extra point made it 28-14 with 2:53 left in the first half and the Indian onslaught ensured.
Smothers returned a punt for a touchdown with 1:51 remaining and caught a deep pass for a score with 34 seconds left and the Indians led 42-14 at halftime.
“Steven is just and exceptional guy,” Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said. “He’s such a dynamic player. We did some things this week to give him the opportunity to be dynamic and obviously he is a tremendous player.”
Two plays into the second half, Darius Hinton raced 41 yards for his second touchdown of the night and the running clock began.
Reserve quarterback Jimmy Lahay scored the final Franklin touchdown.
The Indians also had a first-quarter touchdown from starting quarterback Jacquez Adams.
Catonsville’s only other touchdown came on a tough 2-yard run from Calloway Lee after a 75-yard drive.
“He took my knees out and I had to spin and it was my extra effort and my guys pushing me to get into the end zone,” Lee said.
His extra effort, along with the interception by Smuck and ensuing long drive, was the wakeup call the Indians needed.
“As a team when we jumped up on them early, we kind of got a sense that things were going to be easy the rest of the night, but we told them Catonsville is well coached and coach (Rich) Hambor does a great job of getting those guys ready.” Burgos said. “It was senior night and they were not going to lay down and we had to play to our highest ability.”