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Franklin football defeats Bel Air in regional championship game

Franklin football players thank its fans during a postgame celebration after the Indians defeated Bel Air 28-14 in the Class 3A North Region championship game.
Franklin football players thank its fans during a postgame celebration after the Indians defeated Bel Air 28-14 in the Class 3A North Region championship game. (Staff photo by Matt Button)

Two high-octane offenses collided at Franklin High School Friday night in the Class 3A North Region football championship game, and the host Indians emerged with a 28-14 victory over Bel Air.

No. 4 Franklin (11-1), the defending Class 3A state champion, won its 11th straight game after a season-opening loss to Calvert Hall.

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Franklin entered the game averaging 41 points while allowing 14. No. 14 Bel Air (10-2) came in averaging 36 points per game while allowing 12.

Bel Air controlled the time of posession in the first half as it ran 37 plays from scrimmage, compared to just 13 for Franklin, but it was the Indians who scored first when Steven Smothers intercepted a pass and raced 90 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.

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"This was Smothers' first game starting in the secondary for us and we felt like with this passing game that we were going to put him on the field because we knew there were only going to be one or two throws that they were going to make," Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said.

Smothers' presence on defense had the support of a key teammate.

"Our starting cornerback Damien Taylor did a tremendous job of being supportive of what we were doing, allowing us to put Smothers in the game for that situation and obviously it paid off," Burgos said.

The extra point by Luis Belmontes made it 7-0 with 8:17 left in the first half.

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The interception by Smothers came after the Bobcats had driven 76 yards in 14 plays.

The Bobcats responded with a 13-play 80-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown run by Brad Casale.

Casale also had a 23-yard run during the drive.

Bel Air gained 143 yards rushing in the first half, with Devin Bowers gaining 84 yards on 14 carries.

Both Bowers and Casale rushed for more than 1,000 yards this seaon, but it was the Indians who got a bulk of the carries in the second half.

Franklin came out rolling on its first possession of the second half when it drove 63 yards in six plays.

Quarterback Jacquez Adams (19 carries, 91 yards) had a first down run of 13 yards and Darius Hinton (21 carries, 135 yards) had rushes of 18 and 13 yards for first downs before Adams swept nine yards for a touchdown.

Belmontes kicked the extra point for a 14-7 lead with 10:30 left in the third quarter.

On the Bobcats' next series, Belmontes stuffed running back Casale on third down and forced a punt.

The snap went over punter Casale's head and was recovered by Belmontes at the Bel Air 17.

Five plays later, Hinton scored from a yard out and the Indians led, 20-7.

The Bobcats made another mistake in the fourth quarter when a fumbled handoff was recovered by Franklin's Michael Gibson.

Runs of 27 and 16 yards was followed by a one-yard touchdown run by Hinton, and Adams ran in the two-point conversion for a 28-7 lead.

Running behind a line that included tackles Marcus Williams and Patrick Allen, guards Evan Ostrow and Nicholas Trogdon and center Eric Ostrow, Hinton had 110 of his 135 yards rushing in the second half.

Hinton now has 1,637 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns, one year after he played with two torn anterior cruciate ligaments in his knees before having surgery after the state championship season.

"We just go hard and be physical and they can't stay with us," said Hinton, who praised the running of quarterback Adams. "They can't always key on me. They also have to key on my quarterback and wide receivers. They can't just stack the box and try to stop me."

Adams has rushed for 748 yards this season and has 1,173 yards passing.

Although Smothers didn't catch any passes, he has 1,151 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns.

Coach Burgos likes the balance.

"That's the dynamic of our team," he said. "We've got a lot of different threats and we can utilize different guys," he said.

Daniel Webber's 10-yard touchdown run with 2:24 left in the game ended the scoring for Bel Air. An onside kick attempt was recovered by Franklin's Murad Hussain, and the Indians ran out the clock.

"In the second half we got the ball back and we were able to come down and score and our defense fed off our offense and we got the ball again and then we were playing Franklin football," Burgos said. "This team is really persevering and they are really coming together and learning how to be champions, and that's the key."

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