The stadium lights were on at Franklin High, and with them a full accompaniment.
The bleachers were buzzing, the concession stand was open for business and cheerleaders were supporting the home team with vigor.
It was Friday night and there was a football game being played in Reisterstown that wasn’t just any game. The host Indians were taking on their biggest Baltimore County rival, Milford Mill, in the much-anticipated 2021 season opener.
It was a special night for everyone — especially Franklin running back Rodney Nelson.
The senior carried the ball 26 times for 172 yards, scoring from 32 yards out with 1:15 left to lead the Indians to a 19-14 win.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight and we knew we had to come together and play as a team to come back to win,” Nelson said. “All that was going through my head was score, score, score because we were down and the clock was running out, so I just hurried up and scored.”
With 9:06 to play in the fourth quarter, the Millers took their first lead at 14-13 when running back Chris Butler scored up the middle from 9 yards and did the same to complete the 2-point conversion.
The Indians started the game-winning drive on their own 30 with 4:42 to play and were backed up to the 9 after consecutive penalties. On fourth-and-2 at the 38, quarterback Quentin Demery completed a long pass to Gavin Nelson to move the chains with 1:31 to play.
Rodney Nelson’s big run — starting up the middle and then bouncing to the left — came soon after. The Indians defense closed out the win, forcing a turnover on downs before the offense came on in the closing seconds to take a knee.
Junior Mekhi Workman also played a big role in the Franklin win, intercepting a pass in the first half at the 1-yard line and returning a punt 42 yards to give the Indians a 13-6 lead with 5:06 to play in the third quarter.
The interception was followed by Franklin’s first score, with Demery finding five different receivers before capping the 99-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Milford Mill cut the lead to 7-6 with a 89-yard drive in the second quarter, capped by quarterback Tahseen Howard scoring on a 7-yard run after finding wide receiver Daysen Shell for 65 yards.
Before the game, with the sun still out on a comfortable evening, Franklin coach Anthony Burgos soaked it all in.
“Ah man, look at the crowd,” he said. “Everybody’s here, everybody’s excited about being out here. Both teams — it’s a good rivalry with each other — and I’m just happy the kids are able to get out here and play some football and do what they love to do. So we’re all blessed.”
Both teams were flawless in the condensed spring season: Milford Mill perfect at 5-0 and Franklin going 4-0.
And while the chance to get back on the field was satisfying for both teams then, football in the fall with a chance to play in the state playoffs brings much more importance to the hard work that’s being put in.
Next Saturday, Franklin hosts No. 1 St. Frances in a nonconference showdown set for 7 p.m. The Indians return to Baltimore County league play Sept. 18 when they travel to Dulaney at 1 p.m.
Milford Mill takes to the road next Friday night, traveling to Hereford with the opening kickoff at 6:30.
Concordia Prep 14, Archbishop Curley 2: Gavin Brooks threw a 35-yard touchdown pass and had a 1-yard quarterback sneak for another touchdown as the visiting Saints (1-0, 1-0 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference) took a 14-0 lead in the first half. The Friars fell to 0-1, 0-1. Curley’s lone score came in the third quarter.
St. Paul’s 42, Severn 0: Coach Scott Van Zile got this first win as the host Crusaders (1-0) shut out the Admirals (0-1). St. Paul’s will host St. Mary’s on Friday at 7 p.m.
Gilman 39, Edgewood 18: The host Greyhounds (1-0) put together a 29-point second half to rally past the Rams (0-1). Gilman fell behind 12-0 and closed to within 18-10 in the first half. The final play of the game with six seconds left was an interception by Gilman’s George Russell, who returned the ball 57 yards before being tackled.
Gilman 3, Boys’ Latin 1: Elijah Brijbassi scored two goals to lead the visiting Greyhounds (2-0, 2-0 MIAA A Conference) past the Lakers (2-3, 1-2). Boys’ Latin led 1-0 at the half.
Baltimore Sun staff contributed to this article.