Explosive Franklin awaits unbeaten Milford Mill in football

Despite getting shut out in its season opener and having a roster that includes 18 seniors and 26 underclassmen, Franklin High hasn't panicked in its quest for a seventh straight playoff appearance.

The Indians' next opponent, unbeaten Milford Mill (5-0), will pose another challenge when the teams clash at Franklin on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.

The Millers are currently the only team ahead of the Indians in the Class 3A North Region standings.

Since a 20-0 loss to Dr. Henry A. Wise High, Franklin scored 114 points against its next three opponents with a roster that boasts 13 freshmen and sophomores.

All of victories were against playoff-caliber rivals, including conquests of Hereford, 41-31, and Catonsville, 35-30, in back-to-back shootouts.

"Giving the rivalry we have with Hereford, and the fact that we bounced back against Catonsville after the beat down they gave us last year, I was just proud of my teammates," senior quarterback Jackson Thornton said. "Overall, everyone did a great job and it's going to be a great year."

The Indians continued to score in bunches on Sept. 29 against a Towson High squad that has hasn't been to the postseason since 2006, when the Generals lost to Franklin in the first round of the regional playoffs.

Thornton's optimism stems from an explosive offense with multiple weapons.

They unleashed several of them against Catonsville at home on Sept. 21.

Marquis Ellis caught five passes for 99 yards and his brother, Reggie, grabbed an 11-yard touchdown pass and was the first receiver on a 45-yard hook-and-lateral gadget play with running back Maurice McFadden.

McFadden gained 78 yards rushing and scored a touchdown and freshman Steven Smothers caught a 42-yard touchdown pass.

The 5-foot-9 Smothers is a speedy addition to the Ellis brothers, who are a combination of size and speed.

Marquis is 6-foot-4 and Reggie is 5-11. It was Marquis who took advantage of a pair of jump ball receptions against Catonsville: One gained 31 yards and the other was an 11-yard touchdown snatch over 5-foot-5 defensive back Keon Webb.

"I knew coming in, we had the matchups and if my line could give me time, I could put the ball where my receivers could make a play on the edge," Thornton said. "We've got the guys on the edge that can go toe-to-toe with anybody in the state."

The offensive line that has provided Thornton enough time to throw features center Brady Orem, guards Marcus Estep and Jonathan Beall and tackles Patrick Allen and Evan Ostrow.

The Indians built big leads against Hereford and Catonsville, but watched as both foes rallied.

"We've got to understand that we've got to make those stops and continue on offense to keep the gas on and take advantage of every opportunity," Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said.

The defense, led by Malik Jackson (17 tackles) and Shaquille Melvin (8 tackles) did just that, holding Catonsville scoreless on two key possessions after the Comets had pulled within five points with under 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

"He (Jackson) was the best linebacker we've faced all season," Catonsville assistant coach John Youngberg said.

The Indians held University of Maryland-bound running back DeAndré Lane to 57 yards rushing after the senior gained 500 yards in the Comets' first three victories.

The week before, at Hereford, the defense proved it could produce several big plays — a 62-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Reggie Ellis and a 35-yard interception return for a score by Marquis Ellis.

Seeing the Ellis' perform on both sides of the ball is very rewarding for Burgos.

"Both Ellis brothers have been here for three years and they are deserving of everything," Burgos said. "They have been humble and just waiting for their opportunity and that's what makes them great leaders."

Watching his senior quarterback mature before his eyes is another pleasant surprise.

"Jackson is definitely becoming a good leader," Burgos said. "He is understanding the responsibility of being a quarterback."

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