We've made it to No. 3 as The Baltimore Sun reveals its Top 5 high school football teams day-by-day leading up to the full preview on Thursday.
Franklin, the Baltimore-area's only defending state champion, takes the No. 3 spot.
Look for No. 2 Wednesday morning and the countdown concludes with No. 1 on Wednesday evening.
The entire Top 15, along with players to watch, will be published Thursday in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com.
Coach: Anthony Burgos
Last season: 12-2, No. 5
Postseason: Class 3A state champions
First game: At Calvert Hall, Friday, 7 p.m.
Players to Watch: WR/DB Steven Smothers, Jr.; CB-WR Jordan Adams, Sr.; QB Jacquez Adams, Sr.; OL Patrick Allen, Sr.; RB Darius Hinton, Sr.; LB-FB Sonny Csorba, Sr.; LB-RB Kiandre Burrell, Sr.; DB Juantez McCrae, Sr.; DL Julius Fakhoury, Sr.; OL Evan Ostrow, Sr.
Outlook: With a roster that rivals any private school, the Indians should make a strong bid for the area's No. 1 ranking after winning Franklin's first state football title last season.
The top four players -- Smothers, the Adams twins and Allen -- are headed to top Football Bowl Subdivision programs. Jordan and Jacquez Adams have committed to West Virginia and 6-foot-5, 290-pound Allen has committed to Georgia.
Smothers likely will be able to take his pick of programs, with offers already on the table from Florida State and Alabama, among others.
The Indians are beginning to garner national attention, having earned the No. 22 ranking in MaxPreps Freeman Rankings, a computer ranking. They were No. 6 in the south region.
Last season, the Indians lost their season opener to Calvert Hall, 28-14, and started off 2-2 before winning 10 straight. In an impressive run through the playoffs, they outscored their four opponents, 167-42.
Jacquez Adams was 47 of 64 passing for 782 yards and 11 touchdowns with only two interceptions in the playoffs. He finished the season with 2,836 yards and 30 touchdowns.
In the state final, he connected with Smothers for two touchdowns, including an acrobatic catch by the junior, who landed a foot in the end zone while falling backward across the sideline. That touchdown, thrown on fourth-and-20, snapped a 7-7 tie and the Indians added Burrell's 6-yard scoring run to seal a 20-7 win over Linganore for the 3A state title.
Smothers, who had 1,816 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns last fall, is a big play waiting to happen, as he showed three times in the regional final, scoring on a 69-yard reception, a 59-yard interception return and an 84-yard kickoff return. Jordan Adams, who had seven interceptions at cornerback, is also a prime target for his brother, grabbing 50 passes last season for 763 yards.
Add Burrell and a healthy Hinton to that mix after returning from ACL surgery on both knees and the Indians have plenty of weapons.
Junior wide receivers Brian Doyle and Murad Hussain could also be prime targets with Smothers getting a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
Perhaps the most difficult player to replace has been middle linebacker Bruce Damon, but Burgos is looking to Csorba to take on that role.
Damon was also a key team leader, along with Marquis Miller, and Burgos spent much of preseason looking for new leaders to emerge on and off the field -- key if the Indians are to make it back to the state final.
Franklin still feels it has something to prove when it takes on Calvert Hall Friday night. A win over an MIAA A Conference team would get them off to a strong start.
The overwhelming favorite in Baltimore County, the Indians aim to become only the second county program to repeat as state champs; Hereford did it in 2002.
"The guys are hungry," Burgos said, "and the great part of it is we have about four guys in the senior class who are on the edge of getting offers, so they're extra motivated because they want to prove colleges wrong. Even the guys who have offers that didn't get some of the local offers are extra motivated to prove to some of the local schools that they were guys they should have been going after."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun