KI up­sets NC

Jack­son, Getz com­bine for win­ning TD

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By AY­MAN ALAM aalam@star­dem.com

— The ball hung in the air for what seemed like an eter­nity.

As J.C. Getz closed in on the fade from Trent Jack­son near the end of Fri­day night’s Class 2A East Re­gion foot­ball semi­fi­nal be­tween Kent Is­land High and North Car­o­line, Getz got tan­gled with the Bull­dogs sec­ondary and went to the ground, as did the ball, harm­lessly and with­out a pass in­ter­fer­ence call.

But much like the sec­ond chance the Buc­ca­neers were af­forded to erad­i­cate the mem­o­ries of a hum­bling, Week 9 loss to Car­o­line, Getz would also re­ceive the same bless­ing.

The Kent Is­land se­nior wide­out ran es­sen­tially the same route on the next play, a third-and-seven on the Bull­dogs’ 15, the Bucs down 29-26 with 30 sec­onds to play, and Jack­son this time rock­eted the pass to his class­mate. Getz lept over North Car­o­line’s Seth Tay­lor and Owen Joseph, and mus­cled in the gamewin­ning touch­down with 25 ticks re­main­ing, and the No. 4 seed Buc­ca­neers held on to elim­i­nate the un­beaten, top-seed Bull­dogs with a thrilling, 33-29 vic­tory.

“It was just a great play, all around,” said Getz, who made five re­cep­tions for 102 yards, in­clud­ing a pair of TDs. “It was one of those plays where you don’t think a lot. I jumped up for the ball, and ev­ery­thing was hap­pen­ing so fast. Trent threw a great ball to me, and I just came up with it.”

Added Jack­son: “J.C., he’s a great re­ceiver. Prob­a­bly wasn’t the best read in the world, but I know he can make a play when I needed it, and the team needed it, and that’s what he did.”

The Buc­ca­neers (9-2), who will face No. 2 seed Har­ford Tech next Fri­day in Bel Air, needed a vir­tu­ally per­fect per­for­mance to un­seat North Car­o­line. Though the per­for­mance did not at­tain per­fec­tion, Kent Is­land caught the breaks it did not dur­ing the 35-14 de­feat two weeks ago, whereas the Bull­dogs (10-1) were ham­pered by early in­ef­fec­tive­ness and some key in­juries.

Car­o­line se­nior run­ning back David Bai­ley, off to Bos­ton Col­lege next fall, was lim­ited to only 64 yards on 14 car­ries, and was re­mark­ably quiet in the first half af­ter tweak­ing his left an­kle. Bai­ley’s class­mate — and backup run­ning back and kicker — Will Man­ship also suf­fered an arm in­jury in the first half and did not re­turn, watch­ing most of the game from the side­lines in a sling.

“One or two plays can make the dif­fer­ence, be­cause they swing the mo­men­tum,” Bull­dogs head coach James McCormick said. “The Kent Is­land kids, they played un­be­liev­able tonight. Their coaches had a great game plan ... the game was just 35 sec­onds too long.”

Still, the Bull­dogs ral­lied from deficits of 20-7 at the half and 26-21 in the fourth quar­ter, pow­ered by three sec­ond-half rush­ing TDs by Bai­ley. But the dis­ap­point­ment of com­ing up short when ex­pec­ta­tions were un­fath­omably high was writ­ten all over Bai­ley’s face af­ter the loss.

“The team, in the sec­ond half, com­ing out, just blocked their tails off, got me in the end zone,” Bai­ley said. “We came back, but there were a cou­ple of mis­takes here and there, really hurt us. We just made some mis­takes on de­fense, and we paid for it.”

Added se­nior line­man JaMion Franklin: “We knew it was def­i­nitely hard to play a team twice on such a short no­tice. Hats off to Kent Is­land, they came out and they played with their hair on fire. Foot­ball is a game of inches, they made a cou­ple of more plays than us, and it turned out those plays de­cided the game.”

Jack­son went 13 of 24 pass­ing with 220 yards and three touch­downs, though he did throw a costly in­ter­cep­tion un­der duress with just over three min­utes left to play.

Up 26-21 af­ter Jack­son con­nected with Getz for a 27-yard TD pass to the left cor­ner, Kent Is­land got the ball right back when Car­o­line went three-and-out, the Bucs’ de­fense stuff­ing Bai­ley for a 4-yard loss near the left side­line on third down.

Kent Is­land took over on its 45 with 6 min­utes, 12 sec­onds re­main­ing, and ma­tric­u­lated to Car­o­line’s 30, aided by a rough­ing-thep­asser call on the Bull­dogs on third down.

Jack­son later faced an­other third-down sit­u­a­tion, this one with 14 to go and on the Car­o­line 30, but was not as for­tu­nate this time around. Jack­son’s fling to the left side was read flawessly by Bull­dogs se­nior Tynez Warner, who in­ter­cepted the ball af­ter jump­ing the route, and weaved his way through seem­ingly the en­tire Kent Is­land team to the Buc­ca­neer 13.

Two plays later, Bai­ley was in the end zone for a third and fi­nal time, a gutsy run through the left side manned by the Notre Dame­bound Franklin. Bai­ley then con­verted the two-pointer for a 29-26 Car­o­line lead with 2:27 left to go.

“We didn’t play a per­fect game” Bucs head coach Damian Fer­rag­amo said. “We damn near threw a pick-six when we were up. I knew in my head what I was think­ing; I knew we wanted to pick up that first down, and we weren’t go­ing to do it run­ning the foot­ball.

“I was kind of sick, call­ing that play, and hav­ing that re­sult,” Fer­rag­amo added.

The sta­dium shook, and there were a lot of slumped shoul­ders and be­wil­dered eyes on the Kent Is­land side­line, hav­ing first flushed a two-touch­down ad­van­tage to the top team in the Bay­side Con­fer­ence and the 2A East and then com­mit­ting its only turnover of the game with vic­tor y but a first down or two away.

“The in­ter­cep­tion, it hurt, of course,” Jack­son said. “But, you watch a lot of NFL quar­ter­backs, and they al­ways preach, ‘For­get about it’. My dad tells me all the time, ‘You’re go­ing to make mis­takes, just for­get about it and move on’, and that’s what I had to do.

“We weren’t out of the game,” Jack­son added. “We have one of the best of­fenses around, we can drive it down the field.”

The Bucs’ re­solve showed through on the win­ning ven­ture.

On fourth-and-seven and time slip­ping away, Jack­son hit Getz for seven yards, and Getz lat­eraled to Bran­don Gal­loway (41 yards rush­ing) for 18 more on the hookand-lad­der. Jack­son found Tre’quon Thomas (82 yards re­ceiv­ing) for 8 and se­nior run­ning back Dy­lan Fin­lay (62 yards rush­ing) rum­bled through the mid­dle for 10 yards on third-and-two. Two plays and two in­com­ple­tions later, Jack­son and Getz con­nected for the sec­ond time on the go-ahead play.

“Trent has really been im­prov­ing over the sea­son; he’s the best quar­ter­back that I’ve ever played with,” Getz said. “He knows where to throw the ball and he make us get open, and we just catch the ball for him.”

Kent Is­land, which fell be­hind 21-0 to Car­o­line in Week 9, struck first to si­lence a bois­ter­ous home con­tin­gent, tak­ing the open­ing kick­off 60 yards on 10 plays, Fin­lay cut­ting from the mid­dle to the left and elud­ing se­nior Jer­main Carter en route to a 15-yard TD.

It was 13-0, Bucs, early in the sec­ond pe­riod, as Jack­son and Thomas hooked up on a short slant from the right to the mid­dle of the field, and the ju­nior wide­out raced 69 yards into the end zone.

The Bucs’ de­fense was stel­lar to that point, re­cov­er­ing a fum­ble by Car­o­line on its first pos­ses­sion and forc­ing a turnover on downs on Kent Is­land’s 29 when Getz tipped a pass.

“We changed the de­fense up a lit­tle bit: we put four peo­ple on the line and stacked three lineback­ers,” se­nior Kent Is­land de­fen­sive end Jeff Kuebel said. “We wanted re­venge from last time. We knew we could beat them, we just had to put in the ef­fort.

“Our of­fense likes to en­cour­age the de­fense, and the de­fense likes to en­cour­age the of­fense,” Kuebel added.

Car­o­line an­swered with its first score, trav­el­ing 60 yards in 10 plays, high­lighted by a 27-yard pass from se­nior QB Cody Pep­per to class­mate Zach Smith (83 yards rush­ing) and a 10-yard Pep­per keeper. Smith fin­ished the drive with a 3-yard run, and Liam Dowdell’s point-af­ter kick made it 13-7, Bucs.

Kent Is­land didn’t wait long to re­tort. Five plays later, on third-and-13 on the 50, Getz hauled in a 48-yard catch down the right side­line, and fol­low­ing a false start, Fin­lay fought his way into the end zone, a 7-yard score cou­pling with sopho­more kicker Joseph Gar­vey’s PAT for a 20-7 lead.

Car­o­line whit­tled the lead to 20-14 on the open­ing pos­ses­sion of the sec­ond half, a 62-yard foray bol­stered by a 23-yard, Joseph Bild­stein run and a 13-yard Bai­ley push; the drive ended with Bai­ley’s 2-yard TD to make 20-14, Kent Is­land. Bild­stein racked up 44 yards on the ground, com­bin­ing with Smith to fill in ably for the ail­ing Man­ship.

The sides swapped punts on the next three goarounds, be­fore Car­o­line started on its own 30 with 2:49 left in the third. The drive ap­peared to be go­ing nowhere, as Bild­stein was dropped for a yard loss and Pep­per was sacked by se­niors Jor­dan Walker and Jor­dan Mar­ciano for a loss of 4. But Smith broke the big­gest play from scrim­mage on the next snap, a 72-yard sprint to Kent Is­land’s 3, Bai­ley bring­ing it home a play later on a 3-yard touch­down for the Bull­dogs’ first lead at 21-20.

Getz’ 27-yard TD catch fol­lowed, the Bucs pulling back ahead 26-21 af­ter the two-point pass was dropped by Getz, set­ting the stage for the fran­tic fin­ish.

Car­o­line lim­ited the big plays in the pre­vi­ous win over the Bucs, but fell prey this time, as Kent Is­land notched nine plays of 10 yards or more — in­clud­ing six of 15-plus yards — part of 330 yards to­tal of­fense. The Bull­dogs fin­ished with 311 yards of of­fense, 257 of it com­ing on the ground.

“That was one thing we talked about: don’t give them the big plays, don’t put the ball on the ground,” McCormick said. “We gave them the big plays and we put the ball on the ground. In the play­offs, you can’t do that and ex­pect to win.”

The game ended with four straight Pep­per in­com­ple­tions down­field, as Kent Is­land’s sec­ondary met the ball at ev­ery at­tempt and sealed it.

“Our de­fense was ver y pre­pared for their long passes,” said Getz, who pulls dou­ble­duty as a cor­ner­back. “Our de­fense has been pretty solid, and through­out the game it was really solid; we just made the plays where we had to make them.”

The schools have now split the last four con­tests — Kent Is­land win­ning dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son in 2016 be­fore fall­ing in the re­gion semi­fi­nals as the top seed. Car­o­line blitzed through much of this reg­u­lar sea­son be­fore dis­patch­ing Kent Is­land and lock­ing up the re­gion’s No. 1 spot, but the Bucs re-dis­cov­ered some of their mojo in the sec­ond half of the Week 9 loss. The mo­men­tum car­ried over to the 48-0, Week 10 shel­lack­ing of Queen Anne’s County be­fore the heart-stop­ping play­off win over the Bull­dogs.

“We had a pretty good game plan,” Fer­rag­amo said. “Play­ing them so re­cently, gave us the best scout film you can ever have. They were suc­cess­ful, and we knew they weren’t go­ing to change any­thing. Week 9, we came out flat, we didn’t come out with any pas­sion or en­ergy, so we were a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed in our­selves.

“They were the ones with the swag­ger and at­ti­tude, and we didn’t match it, that’s what we were really con­cen­trat­ing on,” Fer­rag­amo added.

North Car­o­line will grad­u­ate 21 this spring, and it sig­nals the end of the most suc­cess­ful era in pro­gram his­tory. The Bull­dogs went 37-9 over the last four sea­sons, in­clud­ing three play­off ap­pear­ances from 2015 to 2017, the school’s first state semi­fi­nal berth in 2015 be­ing the high­wa­ter mark for suc­cess.

“Our kids played hard, and they left ev­ery­thing on the field, we just didn’t play well enough to get it done in the end,” McCormick said. “They’re a great group of kids. The thing I’m go­ing to re­mem­ber most about these guys are the great re­la­tion­ships, the time we spent, the sto­ries we had to­gether. I told them be­fore the game, and I told them at the end of the game: our re­la­tion­ship doesn’t end tonight. We had vi­sions of [the sea­son] end­ing in an­other three weeks, but our re­la­tion­ships will keep go­ing.”

Added Franklin: “This team right here, it wasn’t just this year. I think ev­ery­body looks at this year alone, but we’ve been do­ing this for four years. Just this sea­son doesn’t show how we’ve been work­ing all our ca­reers, from Pop Warner to now. We were go­ing to fight un­til the end like we did tonight. We gave it our all.”

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Kent Is­land quar­ter­back Trent Jack­son (2) hangs at the edge of the cel­e­bra­tion Fri­day night af­ter his three touch­down passes helped the Buc­ca­neers top un­beaten North Car­o­line 33-29 in a Class 2A East semi­fi­nal.

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Kent Is­land quar­ter­back Trent Jack­son looks for an open man as his line holds off North Car­o­line’s Brendin Gestoli (75) and JaMion Franklin (55) dur­ing the sec­ond half of Fri­day night’s 2A East semi­fi­nal.

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