The Class 3A North regional football championship between No. 11 Franklin and Milford Mill on Friday could be told as the tale of two fumbles.
Late in the first half, Franklin fumbled a snap but quarterback Jacquez Adams scooped up the ball and ran for 40 yards to set up Darius Hinton's go-ahead touchdown. On Milford Mill's first drive of the second half, the defending regional champion Millers also fumbled a snap but the Indians recovered, ending a steady Millers' drive at the Indians' 17-yard line and setting up another Franklin touchdown.
After that, it wasn't close as the host Indians rolled to a 49-14 win for their first regional championship since 2010. They will play next Friday at Huntingtown for a chance at their second trip to the state final in four years.
The Indians (10-2) were careful not to let this game get away from them after squandering a 14-point lead to the Millers in last season's regional championship. Just like last season, the Indians won big during the regular season, 35-18 on Oct. 26.
"We were just trying to keep our heads in the game and use last year's loss as motivation and stay angry and stay hungry," said Hinton, a junior running back who carried the ball 18 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
Adams, who ran 15 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns and completed 11-of-16 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown, sparked the Indians with the long run after the fumble as they broke open a 14-14 game.
"After that fumble I just made sure I kept calm," Adams said, "and as the quarterback, keep the progress going up and the leadership going on so we can keep pushing, going forward. Forget all the other plays. One play only. Play hard for six seconds. That's all you can do."
Hinton followed his junior quarterback's big gain with a 4-yard touchdown romp for a 21-14 Indians lead with 3:50 left in the first half.
Franklin's first drive of the second half ended when the Reggie White Jr. picked off Adams, and the Millers (7-3) embarked on a steady drive before they fumbled a snap and Julius Fakhoury recovered for the Indians. Five plays later, Adams raced 51 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game.
"We stopped them coming out at halftime," Millers coach Reggie White Sr. said of Hayes Gaines' interception to stop Franklin's first drive of the half. "But when we fumbled that ball after we stopped them and we were going in to tie it up 21-all, that was a backbreaker, because then it seemed liked they just turned it up a little bit.
Milford Mill ran only two plays before Franklin's Taurus Bruton picked off quarterback Deonte White and ran 46 yards for the second Indians touchdown in less than a minute. Franklin led 35-14 with 5:44 left in the third quarter.
Bruton then picked off another Deonte White pass and Adams orchestrated an 80-yard, 16-play drive that ended with his 6-yard touchdown pass to Maurice McFadden five seconds into the fourth quarter. Three minutes later, Hinton finished off the scoring and kicked in the running clock with a 35-yard scoring run.
"We can't turn the ball over to a good team. That's the bottom line," Reggie White Sr. said. "That's what we did. They've got an awesome team and an awesome program, but my hat goes off to my seniors, the rest of the team and the coaches."
MM 0 14 0 0 -- 14
F 14 7 14 14 -- 49
F—Ja.Adams 6 run (Bray kick)
F—Hinton 1 run (Bray kick)
M—Deonte White 1 run (Audaluz kick)
M—R.White 39 pass from Deonte White (Audaluz kick)
F—Hinton 4 run (Bray kick)
F—Ja.Adams 51 run (Bray kick)
F—Bruton 46 int. return (Bray kick)
F—McFadden 8 pass from Ja.Adams (Bray kick)
F—Hinton 3 run (Bray kick)