Heading into his 15th season with Franklin, Anthony Burgos faced a rebuilding job.
Not only had he graduated a large, talented senior class, but his only returning starter on offense, running back Sam Botchway, suffered a severe ankle injury in summer 7-on-7. His starting quarterback, Larry Smith, broke the index finger on his throwing hand in the first scrimmage.
That left Burgos with no starters back on offense and only linebackers returning on defense.
At Franklin, though, Burgos is used to reloading. With exceptional team speed and a group of players determined to uphold a legacy that includes the 2013 and 2014 Class 3A state championships, the Indians won the Baltimore County Division I championship, reached the 3A state final and finished 11-2.
"This is the year that I would probably say is the most enjoyable," said Burgos, whose record at Franklin is 118-53 and 56-9 over the past five years.
"With this group, it's kind of like we had to prove ourselves as a coaching staff as well," he said. "Not just me, but as a coaching staff, can we — now that we don't have six Division I players — still put together that great team that can go out there and dominate?"
The Indians opened the season with a 34-14 loss to then-No. 1 McDonogh. Their second game was canceled in Baltimore County's air conditioning controversy. The county's non-air conditioned schools, including Franklin, were closed for several days, and teams weren't allowed to practice on those days leading up to the second game, so the Indians ended up with a nine-game regular-season schedule.
In Week 3, they kicked off an 11-game win streak, the longest active streak in the Baltimore area heading into the state finals.
They avenged their loss in last year's regional final with a 39-0 win over Dundalk, and then defeated archrival Milford Mill, 28-7, to win their third region championship in four years. In the state semifinal, they won 30-7 by stifling a Glenelg rushing attack that had gained more than 3,000 yards.
In their final eight games, the Indians allowed just 43 points. Only Damascus, in winning the state final 14-12, scored more than one touchdown on the Indians during that stretch.
Burgos gave a lot of credit to his players for coming together through all of the early obstacles and continuing to improve throughout the season.
"I think it was the drive these guys have," he said. "I think some of the media and some of the other coaches who talked about how the era was kind of ending — that really motivated these guys. They felt a slight disrespect, feeling like [the past success] was only because of Steven [three-time All-Metro athlete Steven Smothers, now at West Virginia]. I think they took that personally and that was something they thrived on all year long."
Burgos said the players and coaches enjoyed coming to practice every day. The players, almost none of whom had caught a college coach's eye before this season, were determined to prove themselves, but played unselfishly within a team concept that relied on many contributors.
He also credited his coaching staff: Ryan Hain, Bret Hain, Mark Agent, Ted O'Connor, Joe Vales, Trenton Hughes, Tim Miller and Ed Lahay.