No. 2 Howard battles, but falls to 4A state football powerhouse Wise in state semifinals; Damascus overwhelms Glenelg in 2A (VIDEO HERE!!)
by Derek Toney
Facing momental odds, the Howard High and Glenelg football teams knew they needed to play the perfect games Friday evening to have a chance to advance to the state finals. Neither did, and their impressive seasons came to a decisive end.
The second-ranked Lions dropped a 42-7 decision to defending state champ Henry A. Wise from Prince George’s County in a Class 4A state semifinal in Upper Marlboro. Montgomery County’s Damascus posted a 42-7 victory over the No. 12 Gladiators in a 2A state semifinal.
It was deja vu all over again for the Howard County squads who fell short in the state round of four for the second straight year. After losing to Franklin in the 2016 3A semifinals, Glenelg (8-4 overall) had no answers for Damascus (13-0), which moved closer to a third straight championship.
The Hornets, ranked No. 3 in the state media poll and District region by the Washington Post, scored three first quarter touchdowns and built a 28-7 halftime lead. Last week, Damascus needed a late fourth quarter touchdown to pull out a 7-3 victory over then-defending state champ Walkersville in the West Region final.
The Hornets, who claimed back-to-back 3A titles in 2016 and 2015, added a pair of third quarter touchdowns Friday to invoke the running clock with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter. Junior back TD Ayo-Durojaiye had 145 total yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Damascus, winners of 41 straight decisions and 54 of 55 since 2014, will play Harford Tech or Prince George’s County’s Gwynn Park for the state title next Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis. Undefeated Harford Tech, ranked No. 13 by VSN, hosts Gwynn Park Saturday evening in the other 2A state semifinal.
The wait continues for Glenelg, which lost for the fifth time in as many visits to the state semifinals. The Gladiators lost to Damascus in the 3A semifinals in 2014.
“When you get to this round you’re playing the cream of the crop and I think when we’ve been to this round we’ve played some pretty good football team,” Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer said to the Howard County Times. “I’m proud of what we’ve got and do it to the best of our ability.”
After lauding his team’s performance Friday night, Howard coach Ross Hannon came to a sudden pause in his postgame speech.
“I’m going to do something a little different. I want you to go over there and thank your fans,” said Hannon. “We’ll talk when we get back to school.”
The scoreboard read Wise 42, Howard 7. The final 12 minutes was a running clock.
But the Ellicott City school, overwhelmed in its previous two meetings against Wise, played with a confident aura Friday.
“I’m just happy the team came out here and fought,” said Lions junior running back Devin Dawkins. “The last two years, I believed we folded. Today, we fought until the game was over.”
“I’m proud of these kids. They did a heck of a job,” said Hannon. “If we’re in 3A, I think we’re state champs.”
The Lions (12-1) are in the state’s largest classification and Wise (13-0) is the equivalent to the University of Alabama on the public level. The Jaguars, the top-ranked team in the District region and No. 2 squad in the state media poll, extended their winning streak to 41 Friday.
John Oliver rushed for 130 yards and four touchdowns for Wise, and Quentin Williams completed nine of 11 passes for 122 yards. Christopher Rhodes returned a fumble 83 yards for a touchdown.
Wise, coached by former Howard standout DaLawn Parrish, will play Montgomery County’s Quince Orchard Friday night at Navy, in a rematch of last year’s state championship tilt.
Dawkins rushed for 139 yards for Howard, and senior quarterback Robby Porter threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Robert Agbai. The Lions, who lost to Wise in last year’s state semifinal (48-0) and the 2015 state final (55-6; largest margin in state final history), fared much better against Wise’s defense Friday.
Howard’s defense, however, couldn’t slow down the Pumas, who scored on their first four possessions. Wise took up more than six minutes on the first drive of the second half to go up 34-7.
“I thought early on we didn’t tackle well early on, we were sloppy and they ran through some arm tackles,” said Hannon, whose team allowed 49 points during the regular season. “You can’t win if you don’t get them off the field on 3rd-and-long and 4th-and-medium.”
The Pumas went 74 yards in 10 plays on their first possession. AJ Lytton, the state’s top senior recruit who’s committed to Florida State, got a short pass, changed direction and sped into the end zone.
On its next possession, Howard got a 29-yard run from Dawkins on 3rd-and-9 to cross into Wise’s territory. Porter lofted a pass to down the middle to Agbai, who ran untouched to the end zone.
It was the Lions’ first score against Wise since the fourth quarter of the 2015 state final. On the next play from scrimmage, Oliver exploded through a hole and went 57 yards, giving the Pumas the lead back.
Howard went three-and-out on its next possession. Wise went 60 yards in five plays as Oliver scored from five yards with 2:21 remaining in the first, giving him 108 yards.
Oliver capped a seven-play, 55-yard series with a 15-yard touchdown run. The Pumas kept the drive intact with an 11-yard pass from Williams to Demetri Morsell to on 4th-and-5.
“Coach told us before hand if there’s a lot of mis-tackles they’re going to be a lot of big plays,” said Dawkins, who also played at defensive back. “This wasn’t our best game at all.”
In the second quarter, Dawkins broke a 28-yard run, getting Howard to Wise’ 32. But the Lions’ star back was whistled for a facemask, trying to wart off a Puma defender and the ball was pushed back to Wise’s 47.
Howard got to the Pumas’ 24 before Dawkins was stopped on 4th-and-1. The Lions stopped Wise’s offense for the first time and recovered Wise muffed punt return late in the first half.
The Pumas mounted a 14-play, 64-yard drive featuring a 13-yard pass play from Williams to Morsell on 4th-and-11. Oliver got across the goal line on 4th-and-goal from his final score.
Keyed by a 31-yard pass from Porter (seven-of-14, 105 yards) to Asheon Rodriquez, the Lions got to Wise’s 8. On 3rd down, Porter was hit from behind and Rhodes scooped up the ball and went untouched to the end zone for a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the third.
Williams converted the two-point conversion, starting a running clock. The Pumas seeking to become the first team in four decades to three-peat in 4A (Sherwood, 1979-1981) has outscored their opponents, 617-80, this season.
“Wise is the man and if you want a shot to be the man then you got to beat the man,” said Hannon. “We haven’t done it yet.”
Hannon said the Lions had better accounting Friday because of Dawkins, who didn’t play against Wise last year because of a broken collarbone. Howard, who won its fourth straight Howard County title and reached its fourth straight state semifinal, have 40 letter winners scheduled back next fall.
“As a program, we’re still growing,” said Porter. “I hope the juniors, sophomores and freshmen keep up the tradition.”
STATE FOOTBALL SEMIFINALS
DAMASCUS 42, NO. 12 GLENELG 7
GLENELG 0 7 0 0 — 7
DAMASCUS 21 7 14 0 — 42
DAMASCUS – John Allen Furguson 2 run (Elijahn Baires kick)
DAMASCUS – Matt Betterelli 29 pass from John Allen Furguson (Baires kick)
DAMASCUS – TD Ayo-Durojaiye 25 run (Baires kick)
GLENELG – Tyler Nalls 10 pass from Tyler Reiff (kick)
DAMASCUS – Ayo-Durojaiye 9 run (Baires kick)
DAMASCUS – Ayo-Durojaiye 65 run (Baires kick)
DAMASCUS – Jevani Christian 42 run (Baires kick)
HENRY A. WISE 42, NO. 2 HOWARD 7
Howard 7 0 0 0 – 7
Wise 21 7 14 0 – 42
WISE – AJ Lytton 24 pass from Quinton Williams (Kevin Martinez kick)
HOWARD – Robert Agbai 24 pass from Robby Porter (Gabe Williams kick)
WISE – John Oliver 57 run (Martinez kick)
WISE – Oliver 5 run (Martinez kick)
WISE – Oliver 15 run (Martinez kick)
WISE – Oliver 1 run (pass failed)
WISE – Rhodes 83 fumble return (Williams run)