No. 6 Franklin won its third state title in dramatic fashion Thursday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Simon Spath kicked a 29-yard field goal as time ran out to give Franklin a stunning 17-14 victory over Linganore in the Class 3A state title game.
Franklin (12-2) won in 2013 and 2014 with the first state title also coming against the Lancers. The Indians also made it to the 2016 state title game but lost. Linganore (12-2) was trying for a seventh state title.
Spath had made two extra points without incident in this game, and he was put on the stage when Franklin moved the ball downfield in the final 4:44 after Linganore tied the score. The Indians drove to the Linganore 13 and were keeping the ball in the middle of the field.
They called time with two seconds remaining. Linganore then tried to ice the junior kicker with another timeout before Spath drilled the kick through to give Franklin the crown.
“I was little nervous,” Spath said. “It was the biggest kick of my life. I had to do it like I do in practice.”
Franklin coach Anthony Burgos knew that it might come down to Spath trying a field goal in the final moments and wanted the offense to get the ball in his range.
“[I thought] let’s just get close to the 20-yard line,’’ Burgos said. “We didn’t want to give them the ball back. [Spath] just doesn’t let anything get to him. He has never been rattled in the practice.”
The Indians moved the ball well enough on the ground and in the air on offense, and their defense slowed a Linganore attack that scored 45 points in the first half of the state semifinal against Chesapeake-Anne Arundel last week.
However, both teams had problems with mistakes in a game that was delayed more than a half hour due to traffic delays in the Annapolis area. Franklin quarterback Vernon Brown was picked off three times and nearly had a fourth one intercepted, but none led to points for Linganore.
But the Lancers also kept hurting themselves and they missed on a number of scoring chances. Linganore fumbled at the Franklin 1-yard line, had a field goal attempt bang off the crossbar and made it into Indian territory eight times but scored only twice.
Both teams moved the ball well in the first quarter, but Linganore took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Ryan Leyh floated a pass to Davon Butler on the left side, and he raced for a 34-yard touchdown.
Leyh got the ball just over leaping linebacker Wayne Brooks on the side, and Butler easily scored with 1:52 left in the quarter. Formulak added the extra point – he had missed a 38-yard field goal on the team’s first possession when the ball his the crossbar.
Franklin answered a few minutes later when quarterback Vernon Brown threw a 69-yard scoring strike to Felton Mekai. Spath tied it with his extra point with 9:43 left in the half.
The Indians scored on their next possession and took the lead for the first time. Elijah Solomon broke free up the middle and ran for an 8-yard touchdown with 6:33 remaining. Spath then made it 14-7 with the extra point.
Franklin then got a huge break at the end of the first half. Brown threw his second interception, which gave the Lancers possession at the Franklin 30. Linganore made it to the 1-yard line in the final seconds before a botched handoff caused Jackson Ambush to fumble into the end zone with five seconds remaining. That stopped the Lancers from scoring and let the Indians go into halftime with the 14-7 lead.
The Lancers marched down the field to start the second half. Linebacker Daniel Yarborough saved Franklin by leaping and knocking down Ryan Leyh’s pass at the goal line as Linganore came up empty once more.
“It was just a blessing from God. The momentum change was just tremendous,” Franklin linebacker Elijah Solomon said.
The Lancers finally tied the game with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter. They went for it on fourth-and-8 from the Franklin 17-yard line, and Joseph Felton broke free around the left end and ran it in for a touchdown. Formulak tied it at 14 with his extra point.
That set up the last-second dramatics from Spath.