And then there were two.
A weekend that began with five Baltimore-area teams still alive in the state football tournament is now down to a pair of local teams -- one from Baltimore City and one from Baltimore County.
The Frederick Douglass Mighty Ducks of west Baltimore and the Franklin High School Indians will both move on to the state finals at M&T Bank Stadium.
A dominating, 54-13 win against Cambridge-South Dorchester kept the Ducks' unbeaten season alive, and pushed them into the state championship game for the first time ever.
"I told the coaches at the beginning of the year that it was going to be tough for us to go undefeated," Douglass head coach Elwood Townsend said, "but the kids thought otherwise."
The Ducks will play Fort Hill High of Cumberland for the Class 1A state championship at noon Dec. 7 at M&T Bank Stadium. Franklin will play Linganore of Frederick County at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 for the Class 3A state title.
The Linganore Lancers overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to beat River Hill, 41-38, ending River Hill's bid for a third straight state championship. Also on Nov. 29, Patuxent High of Calvert County ended Patterson's magical season, beating the Clippers, 42-8, during the Class 2A semifinal. Meade of Anne Arundel County lost to Suitland, 46-25, Nov. 30 during the Class 4A state semifinals.
For Franklin, the state final will be its second out of the last four years and third throughout school history. In 1978, the Indians, coached then by Claude Darr, lost to Friendly for the Class A state title. In 2010, Franklin lost to Wilde Lake for the 3A crown.
Since then, coach Anthony Burgos has reloaded with an army of young, talented and explosive players as the Indians have scored 49 points during each of their three state playoff wins -- 49-14 against Westminster, 49-14 against Milford Mill and 49-7 on Nov. 29 against Huntingtown before a big crowd in Calvert County.
"This is what we've prepared for all year," Burgos said, "and it's been real enjoyable."
Burgos grew up on Long Island, N.Y., playing both lacrosse and football, though he is no stranger to the Maryland area. In 1999, he helped Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) win 11 of 12 games to reach the NCAA Division III national semifinals as a defensive back for head coach Tim Keating and defensive coordinator Al Thomas, who won a combined eight state high school football championships as the head coach at Seneca Valley, Damascus and Sherwood.
Burgos' defensive roots helped set the tone for the program when he took over in 2003, though his high-powered offense flaunts some of the area's most talented playmakers, which puts pressure on opposing defenses and has turned the student body into Franklin football fans.
"The Reisterstown community has given us a lot of support," said Burgos, who helped Nassau Community College win the junior college national lacrosse championship in 1997. "We've had tremendous support all year. The students support us. The energy level in the entire school has picked up, and I think everybody's real excited."
During the Nov. 29 win against Huntingtown, quarterback Jacquez Adams threw six touchdown passes -- two to Steven Smothers, two to Marquis Miller, and one each to twin brothers Jordan and John Jones.
Darius Hinton and Adams are Franklin's two top rushers. In addition to throwing for 22 touchdown passes during the regular season, Adams also rushed for 827 yards and 14 more touchdowns, while Hinton gained 893 yards during the year and another 101 Nov. 29 on five carries.
Add to that 337 more yards passing from Adams, on 17 completions out of 20 attempts, and Huntingtown had no answer for the firepower of Franklin's offense.
"The kids have done a tremendous job all year long, since we lost last year, of making sure we prepare ourselves to be in this position," Burgos said.
Last year, the Indians finished the regular season 10-0 before losing during the regional finals to Milford Mill. They avenged that loss during the eighth week of the season with a 35-18 win against the Millers, then beat them again Nov. 22, 49-14, setting up the state semifinal win against Huntingtown Nov. 29.
The Indians are now 12-1, with their only loss coming to Calvert Hall, 28-14, during the first week of the season.
The Milford Mill win Nov. 22 also earned the Indians one of their preseason goals -- to practice for the state semifinals on Thanksgiving morning.
"That was one our main goals," Burgos said. "I told the guys we wanted to put ourselves in position to play for the state title, which means we would be practicing on Thanksgiving day."
And now the Indians head back to M&T Bank Stadium, where they lost a 21-14 game three years ago to Wilde Lake.
"It's an up-and-down season, but these guys stayed focus every week," Burgos said. "We try not to look at the big picture. We try to look at it in little pieces, and they've done a tremendous job."
Though the explosive offense earns most of the headlines, the Indians' defense also gets attention from opposing coaches and quarterbacks. Bruce Damon, Kiandre Burrell, Sam Solomon, Sonny Scorba, Michael Gibson, Taurus Bruton and Jordan Adams lead a unit that has allowed 11 points per game.
The Indians feature two freshmen on their roster (Gibson and defensive back Samuel Botchway); nine seniors; 24 juniors; and 12 sophomores, including Solomon and Smothers, who hauled in five catches for 134 yards against Huntingtown. The pair now has 15 touchdowns, 47 catches and 994 yards receiving for the season.
Camron West was superb at quarterback for Douglass, now 13-0 after its 41-point win against Cambridge Nov. 30 during its first regional semifinal ever.
West threw four touchdown passes, two to Michael Owens and one each to Charles Smith and Agin Hasan, though it was the Ducks' defense that was the difference.
Cambridge took a 6-0 lead and dominated early before Douglass took control of the game late during the first quarter, scoring 28 straight points. West hit Owens with an 11-yard touchdown pass before DaQuan Alexander gave the Ducks the lead for good early during the second quarter with a 2-yard touchdown run. Azariah Bratton-Bey made it 20-0 on a 43-yard run while West ended the second-quarter onslaught with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Smith.
The Vikings cut the lead to 15 points, 28-13, at the half, but the Ducks put the game away with four third-quarter touchdowns, including a 45-yard interception return by junior linebacker Davon Monette.
And now Douglass could become the third Baltimore City team to win a state championship, following Dunbar and Edmonson. Dunbar has won nine state titles, while Edmondson has captured one (2006). Poly is the only other city team to earn a trip to the state championship game. In 1993, the Engineers, coached by Augie Waibel, lost to Seneca Valley, 15-12, during the Class 3A state championship game.
"The kids have stayed resilient and stayed focused," Townsend said. "They fought through the tough times, and it's been an amazing ride this fall."