Milford Mill’s football team has been known this season for its ball-hawking defensive backs, and the Millers grabbed three more interceptions in Friday night’s Baltimore County Division I showdown at Franklin.
For the No. 7 Millers, however, a complete defensive effort made the difference as they defeated the Indians, 19-13, in overtime.
Tied at 13 after regulation, each team had four downs to score from the 10-yard line in overtime. Jordan Morant made the most of the Millers’ drive as they went first. The junior running back carried the ball twice, reaching the end zone on a 2-yard sprint.
Franklin’s Elijah Solomon, however, blocked the Millers’ extra-point attempt, giving his team a great chance to win.
The Millers defense had other ideas.
Solomon gained 7 yards on the first play of the drive, but the Millers stuffed the Indians on two more rushing attempts and then used their hallmark pass coverage to upset Franklin’s final play on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Jawuan Werrell batted away quarterback Vernon Brown’s pass intended for Joshua Wilson in the end zone.
Milford Mill coach Reggie White credited first-year defensive coordinator Byron Jones with sticking to his plan for the final four plays and cited his entire defense.
“He believed in it and [the players] believe in him,” White said. “He preached D line, get your hands up. We talk about the defensive backs being hawks and they did a good job… I was very proud of them. They were resilient. We had so many injuries with Desmond [Shell] going down, everybody that was cramping. It’s what we preach — next man up and finishing the game and it came to fruition today.”
The Millers (7-0) take over sole possession of first place in Baltimore County’s Division I at 4-0. The Millers, Class 3A state finalists last season, also hold onto first place in the 3A North Region over the Indians (5-2, 3-1), whose other loss was to DeMatha.
Last year, the Millers ended a seven-game losing streak to the Indians by scoring 20 fourth-quarter points to rally for a 26-21 victory.
Friday night’s game was exciting in a different way for team captain Kevin Neal, a four-year starter at linebacker.
“This has been a rivalry,” Neal said. “Last year, we beat them at home. I’d never beaten them here before. We beat them at their house for the first time in my four years on varsity. My first time going to overtime since I’ve been at Milford. It was a lot of pressure on my DBs, a whole lot of pressure on me being the middle linebacker and running our dense. There was a whole lot of pressure everywhere.”
The Indians, who scored on first play from scrimmage when Solomon ran 72 yards for a touchdown, were driving when regulation ended. Xavier Cokley picked off a long Millers pass and the Franklin offense reached the 10-yard line with 4.1 seconds to go. Brown attempted a pass to the end zone, but Kamren Turner picked it off.
“I just think we missed some opportunities,” Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said. “Our guys have to realize when there’s a play to be made, we have to take advantage of that. On that last drive, we squandered our opportunity to score and it just hurt.”
Turner’s interception was the third of the game for the Millers, who have 21 this fall. Khalil Scott and Werrell had interceptions earlier in the game.
Millers quarterback Rishon Holmes threw two touchdown passes to give the Millers a 13-6 lead at the half. Tyree Sheppard caught the first for a 57-yard score and Morant grabbed the second for a 10-yard touchdown.
The Indians tied it with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter when Brown threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Von Reames. That was just the third passing touchdown the Millers have allowed this season.
Neal said the Millers had a lot to make up for after the slow start.
“The mistakes we made at the beginning of the game, it was like we had a second chance to make up for that,” he said, “and we made up for everything. We stopped the run and continued to put pressure on the quarterback and the running back and made them one dimensional.”
With three weeks left in the regular season, the Millers aim to finish undefeated and win their first state championship since 1987, when White played on the team.
Franklin, which fell to Edgewood in last year’s regional playoffs, will look for another chance at the Millers in the playoffs. The Indians have won the past three playoff meetings.
MM 7 6 0 0 6 — 19
F 6 0 7 0 0 13
F — Solomon 72 run (kick failed)
MM — Sheppard 57 pass from Holmes (Tall kick)
MM — Morant 10 pass from Holmes (kick failed)
F — Reames 25 pass from Brown (Spath kick)
MM — Morant 2 run (kick blocked)