Defense leads Warriors to second-straight 1A state final
Havre de Grace wins, 31-14, to set up rematch with Fort Hill
Special to the Whig
— The Warriors entered their 1A state semifinal contest at James R. Harris Stadium with only Edmondson- Westside blocking their path to a second consecutive and ninth overall state championship berth.
With a huge effort from its defense and two key interceptions from defensive back Kenneth Sumpter, secondranked Havre de Grace smothered the visiting No. 3 Red Storm 31-14 on Friday, setting up a rematch with Fort Hill in the 1A state championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Dec. 10.
With his team trailing 17-8 late in the second quarter, Red Storm quarterback Teon Gardner connected on two passes totaling 73 yards that placed the visitors on the Warriors 3-yard line with 0:27 remaining in the first half. Sumpter then made a game-altering interception on the goal line that ended
HAVRE DE GRACE
The turnover followed a pair of Edmondson touchdowns that were called back due to an illegal shift penalty and a false start penalty, respectively.
“We’re versatile and have a lot of athleticism on the field,” Warriors junior middle linebacker Sean Greeley said of his defense, which forced eight turnover-ondowns and four interceptions. “It provides us with a lot of people who can cover ground quickly and it helps a lot against any type of offense. We’re coming out hard and everyone is swarming the ball. It helps a lot when everyone gives their all.”
Sumpter (two interceptions totaling 109 return yards) struck again on the Red Storm’s first possession of the second half when he stepped in front of another Gardner pass, this time returning it 65 yards for a Warriors touchdown that put Havre de Grace ahead 24-8 following a Clay Harris extra point.
Havre de Grace (10-2) then added to its lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter when its defense forced Edmondson into another turnover-on-downs. Warriors senior quarterback Mikey Flosser then drove his offense 47 yards on nine plays, capping the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak that staked his team to a 31-8 lead with 7:54 remaining in the game.
“It’s a great feeling, but it’s unfinished business [for us],” Flosser said of his team returning to the state title game. “We made it there last year and we were happy to be there, but this year we’re not happy to be there. [Instead], we’re going to go in there happy to walk away with the win. If we walk away with anything less, we’re not going to be happy.”
Havre de Grace junior receiver Jordan Day noted that there is a confidence surrounding the team that stems from its previous postseason run in 2015, which ended in an eventual 44-14 loss to Fort Hill in the state final.
“It makes everything easier,” Day said. “A lot of teams that we’ve played have never been in this situation before and we have. We know the jitters. They are still there, but they aren’t as bad as they were the first time we were here. We knew what we were stepping into and we just executed.”
The Red Storm (6-7) were held to only one offensive touchdown, and called on their defense for the final six points of the night.
With 4:53 remaining in the contest, the Warriors placed their backup quarterback in the game in an attempt to protect Flosser. On the very next play, Red Storm linebacker Trjeour Owens recovered a Warriors fumble and returned it 58 yards for the score. Following a failed 2-point conversion attempt, the Warriors took over and ran the clock out on Edmondson’s season.
The Warriors offense capitalized on good field position in the first half following strong defensive stands.
Following a three-and-out and a 6-yard punt by the Red Storm on their first possession of the
contest, Flosser (12 rushes for 64 yards, seven completions for 109 yards and three total touchdowns) led the Warriors on a 19-yard drive that ended when Harris knocked a 29-yard field goal through the uprights to give his team an early 3-0 lead.
The field goal allowed Harris to tie the Maryland state record for most field goals made in a single season, drawing even with Cambridge-SD’s Scott Abt, who converted 13 in 2010. Harris, who enters the state title game 13 for 16 (long of 41) on field goal tries this season, will have a chance to claim sole possession on Dec. 10.
Following another Red Storm three-and-out that resulted in a 22-yard punt, Christian Penrow (two receptions, 38 yards and one touchdown) capped a five-play, 43-yard drive when he hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Flosser that put the Warriors in control, 10-0, with 11:53 remaining in the second quarter.
Havre de Grace would keep the defensive trend rolling when it forced another three-and-out. Flosser then found Day for an 18yard touchdown pass that capped a three-play, 44-yard drive and gave the host squad a 17-0 lead.
Day, who also contributed on defense with an interception return of 20 yards, has developed great chemistry with his senior signalcaller.
“Since February, we’ve all been working out,” Day said. “Over the summer after workouts, Mike and I would stay after and work on our chemistry and that’s what we did. It’s been a long journey.”
Edmondson, which scored 40 points last week in the South Region Final, was unable to get much going against Havre de Grace, which has only allowed three offensive touchdowns over the last eight quarters.
After what looked to be another three-and-out on its own 26-yard line with 4:29 remaining in the
second quarter, the Red Storm struck for their lone offensive touchdown when Gardner found his top-receiving target Deshawn Ruffin, who broke multiple tackles and ran for a 74-yard touchdown on fourth-and-4.
Havre de Grace advances to the state final where it will have a chance to win the program’s fourth state title and first since 1986.
“It feels fantastic,” Warriors firstyear coach Brian Eberhardt said. “We set a goal at the beginning of the year and it keeps progressing. I couldn’t be happier for our guys. We have a lot of dedicated kids on our team who started putting the work in the weight room back in the winter of last year. They attended [workouts], did speed training all summer and guys really put their work in and it’s paying off for them right now. I couldn’t be happier for them right now to see the fruits of their efforts.”
After outscoring its three playoff opponents 98-62, the Warriors
must now prepare for No. 1 Fort Hill (13-0), which took care of No. 4 Kent County, 49-6, in its semifinal on Saturday. Fort Hill has won 53 of its last 54 games, including three straight 1A state titles.
“[Being able to play Fort Hill again] makes a world of a difference for me,” Flosser said of the Sentinels. “That’s all I wanted ever since last year’s state championship, when they held me down. It’s been [constantly] replaying in my head, every single practice and every single game. I always think of Fort Hill and how they shut me down. It means a lot to go back and it wouldn’t be right without playing them in the state championship. I would love to see Kent County, but I want some revenge.”
Flosser and the Warriors will have a chance to avenge its 2015 state title loss at the hands of the Sentinels when they face off at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis next week.
Havre de Grave sophomore defensive tackle Jesse Fenner pursues Edmondson-Westside sophomore quarterback Teon Gardner while junior linebacker Sean Greeley, center, looks on during the second-seeded Warriors’ 31-14 win over the visiting No. 3 Red Storm in the 1A state football semifinals on Friday.