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McDonogh knocks off Franklin behind big plays, running game

McDonogh Eagles running back Mylique McGriff (33) stiff-arms Franklin Indians defensive back Kareem Felder as he grabs a handful of face mask, but McGriff breaks free on his way for a touchdown at McDonogh School.
McDonogh Eagles running back Mylique McGriff (33) stiff-arms Franklin Indians defensive back Kareem Felder as he grabs a handful of face mask, but McGriff breaks free on his way for a touchdown at McDonogh School. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Friday night's football battle of champions figured to be a clash of No. 2 McDonogh's running game and No. 4 Franklin's big-play potential.

The host Eagles, however, added their share of big plays to a steady running offense in a 35-21 victory over the two-time defending state Class 3A champion Indians. The loss ends Franklin's 13-game win streak, which had been the longest in the Baltimore area.

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Mylique McGriff ran for 195 yards on 37 carries and quarterback Jansen Durham converted twice on fourth down and then finished that drive with a 2-yard touchdown to give McDonogh its final 14-point margin with 5:54 to go. Linebacker Andrew Frailer then had an interception on Franklin's next possession to all but seal the victory.

"It was a very hyped game – they're two-time state champs and we're two-time MIAA champs," McGriff said. "It was a good Reisterstown area rivalry game. It meant a lot, just the bragging rights for the best in this area."

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The two rivals hadn't met since McDonogh beat Franklin for a second straight year in 1980 and the two-time defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champions got off to quick start Friday night. The Eagles ran their lead to 28-9 on McGriff's second toughdown run, a one-yard burst, with 6:55 left in the third quarter before the Indians rallied with back-to-back big plays.

Franklin quarterback Jimmy Lahay hit Murad Hussain with a 27-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 28-15 with 6:55 left in the third quarter. Damon Hazelton then recovered a fumble and ran 63 yards for the touchdown, cutting the lead to 28-21 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

"That fumble return for a touchdown really gave them some life and made it a closer game than it was," McDonogh coach Dom Damico said. "I think we were pretty much in control of the game until that point, but I was proud of our kids. We didn't fold after that. We fought back and had some more good drives."

Hussain kept the momentum going briefly with an interception on McDonogh's next possession, but a holding penalty nullified that.

"We didn't capitalize. We gave them too many opportunities in that second half, times when we should have gotten off the field and got our offense back on the field," Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said. "We only had two possessions in the second half, so when you do things like that and you can't get off the field, it makes it real tough."

After the interception was nullified, the Eagles (2-0) continued on with what would be a a 20-play scoring drive that ate more than nine minutes. During that drive, Durham converted twice on fourth-and-six, running eight yards to Franklin's 2 on the second one, setting up his own touchdown punch. Mike Shinsky's fifth extra point boosted the lead to 35-21.

"It was a great drive overall and it ultimately won us the game," Durham, a four-year starter, said. "We tried getting the ball to the running back out of the backfield; they brought unexpected pressure, so you've got to make plays… I started to scramble to find my way out of there and I found Alex Evans (15-yard pass). The second one was a naked bootleg and we had been running iso all game, so we just faked it and I just kept it around the corner. They all bit and I just make a play to the pylons."

Early in the game, the Eagles had no trouble moving the ball behind a humongous line of Jordan McNair, PJ Mustipher, Chase Kirol, Gavin Clark and Bart Kreiner, who average 287 pounds and a bit under 6-feet-5.

After All-Metro safety Eric Burrell, who spent the second half in a boot after a lineman rolled on his ankle, picked off a Franklin pass to set the Eagles up on the Indians' 15-yard line, McGriff, a 5-10, 190-pound junior, ran four times for 14 yards before Durham took it the final yard for a 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the game. On their next possession, McGriff broke a 25-yard run for a touchdown to push the lead to 14-0 with 6:13 left in the quarter.

Franklin, which struggled to hold up the pocket for Lahay early on, got on the board with a safety with 3:33 left in the quarter. Against the Eagles pressure, Lahay threw two interceptions and was sacked three times in the first half. He finished 11-for-21 for 208 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Durham made it 21-2 on a 22-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver BJ Farrare.

Then Franklin All-Metro senior Steven Smothers returned the Eagles kickoff 43 yards to set up a three-play, 46-yard drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown Lahay pass to Hazelton with 16.3 second left in the first half.

Franklin has gone 0-5 in season openers the past five years and still gone to the state final three times. They lost to Calvert Hall the past two seasons and went on to win the state titles.

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"It's really something that we've taken on and want to make sure we push our kids and challenge ourselves as hard as possible early in the year," Burgos said of wanting to play the toughest competition. "I've come to the conclusion that Week One is not going to dictate how our season is going to go. … To me it's character building."

The Eagles and the Indians have a two-year commitment to play, so they will meet again next September at Franklin.

McDonogh takes a road trip to North Carolinaon Sept. 18 for another clash of champions with Mallard Creek, which won the past two state 4-AA titles and lost just one game the past two seasons. The Indians head to Perry Hall, the last Baltimore County team to beat them, 21-7, in September 2013. Franklin avenged that with a 58-21 win last fall.

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