Dun­bar’s 23-game streak ends

Po­ets can’t over­come mis­takes in state semi­fi­nal set­back

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

No. 5 Dun­bar looked un­stop­pable at times in the early min­utes of Satur­day’s Class 1A state semi­fi­nal foot­ball game. The Po­ets, led by 2,000-yard rusher An­dre Bran­don, gashed out large chunks of yardage against Dou­glass of Prince George’s County, and stood like a brick wall on de­fense.

The de­fend­ing state cham­pi­ons seemed primed for a re­turn to Navy-Marine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium. Then came the mis­cues.

There were poor snaps from cen­ter, dropped passes by wide-open re­ceivers and, most un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, penalty after mind-numb­ing penalty. On a cold, rainy day when the East Bal­ti­more school could’ve cel­e­brated its re­turn to the state ti­tle game, it in­stead walked away from Poly with an un­timely end to an oth­er­wise stel­lar sea­son, fall­ing to the Ea­gles, 20-6.

“In state semi­fi­nal games, you’ve got to take ad­van­tage of your op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Dun­bar coach Lawrence Smith said. “You can­not lose op­por­tu­ni­ties, and that’s ex­actly what hap­pened. Quar­ter­backs couldn’t get the balls clean. A lot of fum­bles off the snap. Things like that hap­pen in this type of weather, but you’ve got to deal with the el­e­ments.”

Case in point, Dun­bar’s first pos­ses­sion of the day, when be­tween 15-yard runs by Bran­don (18 car­ries for 99 yards) came a fum­bled snap and 15-yard per­sonal foul penalty. A false start then left the Po­ets at third and 23 at their own 43 be­fore a long third-down pass slipped through the fin­gers of re­ceiver Ma­lik McCormick, who had worked him­self open deep in Dou­glass ter­ri­tory.

“We fell be­hind the chains, and that re­ally messed us up,” said Bran­don, who en­tered the day with 1,934 yards rush­ing. “That’s what re­ally gave them con­fi­dence.”

“If we catch that first touch­down pass, it’s a dif­fer­ent game,” Smith said.

The loss snapped a 23-game win streak for Dun­bar (11-1), which al­lowed just eight fewer points on Satur­day than it had in 11 pre­vi­ous games com­bined this sea­son. Dou­glass (8-4), mean­while, ad­vances to Satur­day’s Class 1A fi­nal, where it will face Fort Hill, which topped Havre de Grace, 43-6, in the other semi­fi­nal.

The crush­ing blow for Dun­bar came with 6 min­utes left.

After the Po­ets twice failed to cash in on drives deep in Dou­glass ter­ri­tory in the sec­ond half – in­clud­ing a 52-yard touch­down run by Bran­don negated by an il­le­gal for­ma­tion penalty – the Ea­gles vaulted into the lead. Sel­dom-used run­ning back Geo-di Tol­bert, mak­ing his first carry of the day, busted through the line and ran over two de­fend­ers on his way to a 66-yard touch­down run. When team­mate Zavier Price scored on the 2-point con­ver­sion, Dou­glass had a 14-6 lead.

“I saw the op­por­tu­nity. I haven’t played much run­ning back all year, but my mind­set was if I got the ball I was go­ing to score,” Tol­bert said. “I got some space and that was all… We were the un­der­dogs, but we gained the mo­men­tum and just kept go­ing from there.”

Dun­bar, which got its lone score on a 2-yard run by Bran­don to tie the game at 6-6 with 2:10 left in the half, couldn’t re­cover. The longer the Ea­gles re­mained in the game, the more con­fi­dent they ap­peared, and the stingier their de­fense be­came.

“We just felt like if we could put Dun­bar in a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion – some­thing they hadn’t been in be­fore –

if we could keep it like that for the ma­jor­ity of the game, we’d be in re­ally good shape,” Dou­glass coach J.C. Pinkney said.

The Ea­gles then sealed the win on their next drive, when on a fourth and 1 with 1:15 left, Price burst through the line and sprinted 60 yards for the fi­nal mar­gin.

On a day when quar­ter­backs Der­rick Dunn and Lamar Simp­son com­bined for just 35 yards pass­ing, Dun­bar sim­ply couldn’t muster enough of­fense to make up for its mis­takes.

“We still ran the ball re­ally good, but we be­come one-di­men­sional when we’re not able to throw the ball the way we like,” Smith said. “In this type of weather, this type of cold, we be­came a one-di­men­sional ball­club.”

Still, Smith said he was proud of his team’s ac­com­plish­ments this sea­son, in­clud­ing seven shutout wins. For a team that was shoot­ing for its ninth state ti­tle in 15 years, how­ever, any­thing but per­fec­tion seems hard to swal­low.

“We ac­com­plished a lot. Most pro­grams, this would still be ela­tion,” Smith said. “One thing about us, we’ve done so much that peo­ple get used to us win­ning state cham­pi­onships. But it’s still hats off to my squad and my team for do­ing what they did.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.