De­fense leads War­riors to sec­ond-straight 1A state fi­nal

Havre de Grace wins, 31-14, to set up re­match with Fort Hill

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By MATT HICKS

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 threat.

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY KEVIN PHILLIPS

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.

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