Franklin's football team has made it very clear to its fans that they had better never leave a game early.
For the second week in a row, the No. 6 Indians needed a last-second touchdown, and Mark Venable plowed 1 yard into the end zone off a pitch from quarterback Joey Dorsey as time expired to give the host Indians a 15-14 victory over Huntingtown Friday night and their first trip to a state title game since 1978.
The Indians (11-2) will meet No. 9 Wilde Lake -- a 21-14 winner over Damascus Friday -- for the state Class 3A championship Thursday at 7 p.m. at M&T; Bank Stadium.
Last week, Dorsey scored on a 1-yard keeper to lift the Indians over then-undefeated North Harford, 28-21, just after Venable set it up with a long run. This time, Venable scored on the short run after Dorsey broke a 20-yard run that set the Indians up at first-and-goal from the 5.
The Hurricanes (9-4) of Calvert County, state Class 3A runners-up last year, played tough defense all night and stopped two plays inside the 5-yard line before Venable finally scored.
"They kept stopping us on the dive and the quarterback sneak," Dorsey said, "so we changed it to a toss and Mark Venable had a great game the whole game and he just got in there."
Before the final quarter, the Indians moved the ball well but struggled in the red zone. The Hurricanes jumped ahead with two quick Andrew Bose touchdowns that put them ahead 14-0 with just over 13 minutes left in the game.
The Indians finally got a spark when Hurricanes punter Mark Smith, standing in his own end zone, couldn't handle the snap and pitched the ball out of the end zone to prevent a fumble and an Indians touchdown. That gave the Indians a safety and new life with just 5:43 to go.
On the first play of the next drive, Dorsey hit Navassa Brown with a 54-yard pass and two plays later, Dorsey snuck in with a 1-yard keeper. That made it 14-9 with 4:45 to go.
The Indians defense held the Hurricanes and took over on Huntingtown's 39-yard line with 3:47 left. Venable, who finished with 26 carries for 140 yards, gained 11 yards on the drive, but Reggie Ellis had two big gains -- 12 yards on a pass from Dorsey and 10 on a run.
With 1:27 to go, Dorsey ran 20 yards to put the Indians on Huntingtown's 5. Brown and Ellis couldn't make it in, so Dorsey called on Venable.
"We've been in this position before and we never gave up," Venable said. "Once we got the safety, Navassa Brown said that those two points are going to win us the game, which it did. And we just kept fighting and fighting. Joey Dorsey stepped up big. Reggie Ellis stepped up big. Franklin, we're a family and everybody played their heart out."