After a slow start in the first half, the Aberdeen Eagles outplayed the Franklin Indians on offense and defense in the second half to win Friday night's 3A North semifinal matchup 32-20.
The Indians looked explosive early in the first quarter, scoring first when Reggie Ellis caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jackson Thornton. Ellis then picked off quarterback Kenny Faulcon on the Eagles first possession and ran it to the 2-yard line.
"We knew they were going to give the ball to [Ian Thomas] and [Reggie Ellis], so we just had to shut them down," said Eagles player Brenton Barnes. When asked about playing at the line of scrimmage he said "it's rough down there, grimy, but I love football."
The Indians were not able to get any points off the turnover as the Eagles recovered a fumble. With the ball back in his hands, Faulcon threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Christian Carpenter to tie the game 7-7.
On the Eagles next possession, Faulcon failed to see a wide open Chavez Cheatham and instead threw an interception. Once again the Eagles created a turnover after committing their own as Eagles player Marquis Harris intercepted Thornton's pass inside the red zone.
But the Eagles were unable to move the ball and had their punt blocked. The Indians recovered it on the two-yard line and punched it into the endzone on a Thornton quartback sneak to make it a 14-7 game.
Right before the end of the first half, Faulcon had an 8-yard rush touchdown. The extra point was no good, making it 14-13 at halftime.
"He made some great decisions, some silly ones, but that's what happens when you play the position. I think he played an exceptional game, made some great throws," said Eagles head coach Johnny Brooks about Faulcon's performance.
The Eagles, out scoring Franklin 19-6, dominated in the second half. It started with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Faulcon to Cheatham early in the third quarter. The Indians brought the game within five points at 25-20 after Ian Thomas rushed for a touchdown, but the offense did not score again.
Eagles running back Austin Bonsall had a 5-yard touchdown run and Faulcon had a late fourth quarter 17-yard touchdown run. On the Indians final drive, Carpenter picked off Thornton to stop any chance of a two-possession comeback.
"I thought we played well. Had some playoff jitters early in the game, but once we settled down, we came and played well in the second half," said Brooks.
Franklin will graduate nine senior football players this year. Some of the Indians football players shed a few tears when Indians head coach Anthony Burgos spoke to his team after the game.
"I'm extremely proud. A lot of people didn't give us a shot after graduating 28 guys last year," said Burgos. "My parting message for the seniors is whatever you do in life, do it to the best of your ability and success will follow. I tell them all the time if all you're learning from me is football, then I'm not doing my job.
My hat goes off to Aberdeen. I wish them the best."
The Eagles will play at North Harford on Nov. 18.