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Old Mill rides Franklin, dominant defense to state title game berth

The running of Donovan Franklin and a dominating defense helped the Old Mill football team reach the state semifinals.

That same formula has the No. 2 Patriots in the state final for the third time in the last six years.

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Franklin ran for 171 yards on 30 carries and scored a touchdown, while the defense held a dangerous Howard offense in check in the Patriots' 10-3 victory over the No. 5 Lions in Friday's Class 4A state semifinal.

Old Mill (11-2) will play Northwest in the state final on Friday night at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Patriots are going for their third state championship after winning titles in 2009 and 2011.

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Old Mill won its 11 straight game since starting the season with losses to No. 7 Broadneck and No. 6 Arundel.

"This is where we intended to be," Patriots coach Chad McCormick said. "At the beginnig of the season it was looking like it was going to be a heck of a road to get there, but these kids held through those first two weeks. I think a lot of kids in a lot of places might have folded in that situation."

Old Mill got on the board on Chris Walker's 25-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The Patriots took over at their own 45 with 1:50 left in the half and a pair of time outs left. David Marracco hit Brady Ludwig for gains of 17 and 14 yards and Marracco picked up a first down with a 3-yard gain an a third-and-1 from the Howard 28.

The two defenses, which each came into the game giving up fewer than 10 points a game, continued their dominant play. After the Patriots fumbled the game's opening kickoff to set the Lions up at the Old Mill 25, Howard moved just 14 yards before turning the ball over on downs.

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Franklin ran for 43 yards on Old Mill's first play, but the Patriots gained seven yards on their next three plays and turned the ball over on downs when Isaiah Stokes dropped Franklin for a 2-yard loss. Howard again moved the ball deep into Old Mill territory, but Kevin Sheahin's pass fell incomplete on a fourth-and-long from the Old Mill 27.

The teams traded punts over the next four possessions before Howard's Christian Dargan intercepted Marrocco at the Howard 10. The Old Mill defense again held to set up the punt that led to Walker's go-ahead field goal.

Old Mill got a stop on the Lions' first possession of the second half and needed just four plays to cover 85 yards and take a 10-0 on Franklin's 45-yard touchdown run. Franklin carried three times for 68 yards on the drive. His score was his first in three games in the playoffs.

"It's amazing," Franklin said. "I always knew we could do it, but it just hasn't hit me that this is reality yet."

After Old Mill's Camari Wilkerson muffed a punt, Howard made it a one-score game on Jon Gould's 22-yard field goal with 8:49 left in the game. The Lions had the ball twice in the final 6:52 with a chance to tie the game, but gained just six yards on seven plays.

"It's a blessing to have a chance to get this championship," Patriots' linebacker Noah Fitzgerald said. "We've been working on this since the summer, and I've been working four years for this opportunity.

Howard, which came in averaging 31 points a game, was held to its lowest point total of the season.

"We didn't capitalize on some of the mistakes they made," Howard coach Bruce Strunk said. "Hat's off to Old Mill. They played some really good defense. It's easy to say we made some mistakes, but who's saying they're not causing them."

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