Dou­glass falls, still takes pride in reach­ing fi­nal

FORT HILL 20, DOU­GLASS 8

The Washington Post Sunday - - HIGH SCHOOLS - BY KYLE MELNICK [email protected]­post.com

Dou­glass foot­ball play­ers crowded around Coach J.C. Pinkney on Navy-Ma­rine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium’s field Satur­day af­ter­noon, many com­fort­ing each other and hang­ing their heads af­ter their 20-8 loss to Fort Hill in the Mary­land 1A cham­pi­onship game.

Pinkney’s mood was dif­fer­ent, though. He smiled as he grabbed the fi­nal­ist tro­phy and raised it in with his right arm.

“No. 2 ain’t that bad right now,” Pinkney said.

Pinkney didn’t know whether the Ea­gles would make the play­offs en­ter­ing the fi­nal week of the reg­u­lar season af­ter in­con­sis­tent per­for­mances in Prince Ge­orge’s County play. But even with five starters in­jured, the Ea­gles reached their first state ti­tle game in four years by snap­ping Dun­bar’s 23-game win­ning streak last week.

“I feel great,” Pinkney said. “We just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to fin­ish it off.”

Dou­glass (8-5) dropped three con­sec­u­tive games in Oc­to­ber and clinched a play­off spot with a one-point vic­tory over North­west­ern in its reg­u­lar season fi­nale. Dou­glass won the Mary­land 2A ti­tle in 2014 to fin­ish the year 14-0, but this was the clos­est the Ea­gles came to that group of tal­ent with just 41 play­ers on their ros­ter.

The Ea­gles pride them­selves on an old-school style, fo­cus­ing on stingy de­fense and tough block­ing. Dou­glass held Dun­bar to six points last week, and the Ea­gles stuck around with Fort Hill (12-0), which has won five of the past six Mary­land 1A ti­tles. The Ea­gles didn’t gen­er­ate much of­fense af­ter scor­ing on their open­ing drive.

When Fort Hill quar­ter­back Blake Beal crossed the goal line on a 22-yard touch­down run that sealed his team’s vic­tory with about three min­utes re­main­ing, Dou­glass de­fen­sive back Javon Rogers crouched and cov­ered his hel­met with his hands.

“At the be­gin­ning of the play­offs, ev­ery­one started doubt­ing us,” Dou­glass wide re­ceiver Ma­lik Pet­t­away said. “Af­ter the ups and downs we had in the reg­u­lar season, it felt great to come into the state cham­pi­onship and play here.”

Rogers and his de­fen­sive team­mates cried as they watched the fi­nal three min­utes from the bench. Be­fore Dou­glass play­ers be­gan the postgame hand­shake line, Pinkney grouped them to­gether and tried to raise their spir­its with a speech.

Dou­glass will re­turn the ma­jor­ity of its starters next season, and Pet­t­away said this ex­pe­ri­ence will raise ex­pec­ta­tions for the Ea­gles to be one of the county’s top teams.

“This was slated for us as a down year,” Pinkney said. “It wouldn’t sur­prise me if we’re back here next year and af­ter that.”

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