No. 12 Franklin (9-2) at No. 7 North Harford (11-0)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Coaches: Ken Brinkman, North Harford; Anthony Burgos, Franklin
Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.
Classification: Class 3A North, regional final
Key players to watch
North Harford — Cody Turner, Sr., QB/FS (83 carries for 699 yards, 17 TDs); Brandon Bayer, Sr., RB (149 carries for 1,117 yards, 14 TDs); Ben Kenley, Sr., FB/LB (128 carries for 864 yards, eight TDs); Nate Brockmeyer, Sr., DB (five INTs, 33 tackles); Vincent Culotta, Sr., OL/DL (58 tackles).
Franklin — Joey Dorsey, Sr., QB (88-for-166 passing for 1,746 yards, 19 TDs); Mark Venable, Sr., RB/LB (129 carries for 784 yards and 10 TDs; 16 total TDs; 121 tackles; two INTs; four forced fumbles); Ian Thomas, Jr., WR/S (38 catches for 826 yards, 13 TDs, 27 tackles, three fumble recoveries), Navassa Brown, Sr., RB, 17 catches for 458 yards, seven total TDs in six games); Ryan Bacote, Sr., CB (45 tackles, two fumble recoveries).
Keys to victory
The Hawks earned their undefeated record with discipline on both sides of the ball — grind-it-out running on offense and sticky coverage on defense. In their 15-6 win over Catonsville in last week's regional semifinal, they allowed the Comets just three plays in the first quarter. They don't make a lot of mistakes on either side of the ball.
The Indians, on the other hand, are known for breaking big plays both ways. Venable and Thomas lead a speedy, athletic contingent of two-way players who can outrun many opponents. Still, Franklin also did a good job of running the ball up the middle in its 47-14 upset win over Hereford in the semifinal. The rushing dimension makes them tough to contain with all the speed they have on the outside.
The two have played three common opponents this fall — Bel Air, Catonsville and Hereford — with both defeating all three, although Franklin dropped its regular-season meeting with Hereford before avenging it last week.
To earn their first trip to the state semifinals, the Hawks must prevent Franklin from breaking those big plays. They have to control possession for long stretches and maintain tight defensive coverage. The Indians, who are looking for their first trip to the state semifinals since 1978, will have to bolster their defense against the run and use their multifaceted offense to try to keep North Harford's defense off-balance.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
No. 4 Broadneck (9-2) at No. 3 Arundel (10-1) in Class 4A East, Friday, 7 p.m.
Wilde Lake (8-3) at No. 6 River Hill (10-1) in Class 3A East, Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 11 South Carroll (11-0) at Middletown (10-1) in Class 2A West, Friday, 7 p.m.
City (8-3) vs. Eastern Tech (10-1) at CCBC-Essex in Class 2A North, Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 14 Dunbar (10-1) vs. Forest Park (11-0) at Poly in Class 1A South, Saturday, 1 p.m.
MIAA B Conference championship
No. 8 Archbishop Spalding (8-3) vs. No. 13 Archbishop Curley (9-2) at Mount St. Joseph, Saturday, 1 p.m.