KI upsets NC
Jackson, Getz combine for winning TD
— 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.”
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.
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.