No. 7 Milford Mill (6-0) at Franklin (5-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Coaches: Reggie White, Milford Mill; Anthony Burgos, Franklin
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Milford Mill: ATH Desmond Shell, Sr.; RB-LB Jordan Morant, Jr.; LB Kevin Neal, Sr.; DB Richard Akers III, Sr.; QB Rishon Holmes, Soph.; WR-DB Tyree Sheppard, Jr.
Franklin: DE Robert Garrett, Sr.; TE-LB Jay Thompson, Sr.; RB-LB Elijah Solomon, Sr.; RB-DB Ja’mon Murphy, Jr.; DB Xavier Cokley, Jr.; QB Vernon Brown III, Jr.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The most anticipated game in Baltimore County this fall has Milford Mill looking for a second straight victory over the Indians after rallying with 20 fourth-quarter points to win 26-21 last fall.
Before that, the Indians had controlled the series with seven straight wins, including three in the Class 3A North regional playoffs. But even then it was a huge rivalry for the two teams separated by about 10 miles in western Baltimore County.
In 2013 and 2014, the Indians went on to win the state championship after beating the Millers in the regional playoffs. The two did not meet in the playoffs last season as the Millers advanced to the state title game and fell to Linganore, 28-27.
This game likely will determine who wins Baltimore County’s Division I and decide which is the top seed in the 3A North region playoffs. Milford Mill is the only undefeated team in the county and in the region. Franklin, whose only loss was to DeMatha, is unbeaten in the county and in second place in the region.
“It’s Ravens-Steelers, you know?” White said. “You know it’s coming, but you try not to say anything about it as you go through the season. This is everybody’s contest. This is our big contest.”
The Millers have been rolling up the points this season — 42.3 per game, but their defense has been the foundation of what they hope will be a run to their first state title since 1987.
They’ve allowed just 35 points and only two passing touchdowns, which White said were both on 50-50 balls. His defensive backs have 18 interceptions, led by Akers and Skylar Baker with four each.
“We’re going to have to be mindful of that and play smart,” Burgos said, “and try to put ourselves in position where we’re running the ball first. We’ve got to establish our running game and take advantage of the passing game when we can.”
The Indians’ defense — led by Garrett (6.5 sacks and 13 of his 49 tackles for a loss) and Cokley (11 pass deflections) — has given up 63 points, but erase the 27-14 loss to DeMatha and they’ve allowed just 36.
Franklin’s offense averages 32.7 points. Brown, who averages 144.7 passing yards, has thrown eight touchdown passes — three to Thompson. The Indians have run for 167.3 yards per game, led by Solomon (five touchdowns) and Murphy, who has four rushing touchdowns in four starts at running back.
Milford Mill has a versatile offense as well. Holmes averages 142.8 passing yards and has thrown for 12 touchdowns — five to senior wide receiver Jawaun Werrell.
Shell, an All-Metro first-team selection last season as an athlete, is a threat every second he’s on the field. One of the fastest players in the Baltimore area, he has 12 touchdowns, including 10 rushing. He averages 143 all-purpose yards per game. On defense, he has three interceptions, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
White said not much else matters heading into this game.
“As always, throw out the record books,” he said. “We could both be 0-6 and this game is going to be Clash of the Titans.”
“It’s a big rivalry. It’s close quarters. The kids know each other pretty well,” he said. “The two teams are consistently at the top of the division. I think it’s a great game for Baltimore County.”
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
» No. 12 Liberty at No. 9 Westminster, Friday, 7 p.m.
» No. 4 Calvert Hall at No. 3 Archbishop Spalding, Friday, 7 p.m.
» No. 2 Mount Saint Joseph at No. 11 McDonogh, Friday, 7 p.m.