No. 9 Dunbar shuts down Fort Hill in second half for 1A state football title (VIDEO HERE!!)
by Nelson Coffin
Contrasting styles made for an entertaining battle in the Class 1A state championship football game on Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis.
Quick-striking Dunbar and methodical and powerful Fort Hill put on a show that featured plenty of offensive theatrics until both defenses came to life after the intermission with the Poets prevailing, 30-26, for their 10th state crown and 12th straight win of the season.
The teams combined for 48 points and nearly 450 yards of offense in the first half and then put up more modest numbers thereafter, with Dunbar (12-1 overall) scoring the only — and game-winning — touchdown against the four-time defending state champs.
Early, though, the touchdowns were coming fast and furious on both sides.
The Poets took all of 19 seconds to jump ahead when junior running back Andre Brandon, on his only carry of the game, ducked inside, broke a tackle or two and streaked 68 yards into the end zone. (Overall, senior running back Alphonso Graham paced Dunbar’s running game, gaining 87 yards on 15 tries).
Senior quarterback Jared Lewis connected with junior wideout Demond Jackson for the two-point conversion and an short-lived 8-0 advantage.
Fort Hill (12-2) caught up midway through the opening period on a 21-yard pass from senior quarterback Logan Johnson to senior running back Brayden Poling and a conversion pass from Johnson to senior tight end Braeden Smith.
Dunbar answered that challenge when Jackson collected a pass from Lewis seconds before he was sacked and turned it into a 63-yard scoring play. Lewis’ run earned the conversion points and the Poets led, 16-8, with just over six minutes remaining in the quarter.
A 17-yard scamper by Poling and Poling’s conversion pass to Johnson knotted the score, 16-16, early in the second quarter.
The Sentinels then capitalized on a short Poets’ punt to their own 25-yard line to grab the lead, 23-16, when senior running back Troy Banks, who totaled 160 on the ground on 35 carries, rumbled in from the 4-yard line and senior kicker Ryan Hipp kicked the point-after.
Dunbar rallied to within a point on a 60-yard strike from Lewis (7-for-17, 252 yards, 3 TDs) to junior wideout Raekwon Walker (4 catches, 88 yards) with just under seven minutes left in the half while Fort Hill produced three more points on a 46-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Danny King to lead at the half, 26-22.
Dunbar began the second half with the first of several defensive stops when Brandon, playing defensive back, pounced on a fumble at the Sentinels’ 42-yard line, although the Poets’ ensuing drive sputtered at the Fort Hill 26 on a failed screen pass with just over five minutes to go in the third period.
To prove the previous defensive stand was no fluke, Dunbar stopped Fort Hill again and retook the lead after a 48-yard Forth Hill punt and an offensive pass interference penalty pinned the Poets back to their own 13 yard-line.
On 2nd-and-20, Lewis’ pass to Ryan Wood turned into an 87-yard TD to put Dunbar back on top, 30-26 when the senior wideout tightroped down the sideline and into the end zone.
“We were getting frustrated,” Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said about the offense getting bogged down at times. “But we felt if we could get our guys the ball in space, they couldn’t contain us.”
Dunbar then managed another defensive stand with junior linebacker Amon Murray making a tackle for a loss and junior defensive lineman Domenic Smith recording a sack.
Smith finished with five solo tackles and four assists for a total of nine, one behind team leader Dwayne Johnson.
Dunbar’s next possession ended with its best punt of the game, which put Fort Hall back on its 13-yard line with just over six minutes remaining.
The never-say-quit Sentinels ventured as far as their own 31, but were denied for the final time when junior defensive back Rashad Williams picked off Logan Johnson with little more than two minutes to go.
How did the Poets managed to shut down the Sentinels in the second half?
“We sold out against the run,” acknowledged Lawrence Smith, who is now a perfect 5-0 against Fort Hill. “We brought six and seven guys up (into the box). If they could throw the ball, they were going to beat us.”
Considering that Logan Johnson only completed five passes for 38 yards, that strategy paid off in a big way.
Dunbar senior linebacker Dwayne Johnson made sure to remember the nine championship teams that came before him.
“There’s just such a great legacy at Dunbar,” he said. “And that’s what pulled us through.
CLASS 1A STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
AT NAVY-MARINE CORPS STADIUM
NO. 9 DUNBAR 30, FORT HILL 26
DUN 16 6 8 0 — 30
FH 8 18 0 0 — 26
DUN-Andre Brandon 68 run (Demond Jackson pass from Jared Lewis)
FH-Brayden Poling 21 pass from Logan Johnson (Braeden Smith pass from Logan Johnson)
DUN-Demond Jackson 63 pass from Jared Lewis (Jared Lewis run)
FH-Brayden Poling 17 run (Logan Johnson pass from Brayden Poling)
FH-Troy Banks 4 run (Ryan Hipp kick)
DUN-Raekwon Walker 60 pass from Jared Lewis (run failed)
FH-46 FG Danny King
DUN-Ryan Wood 87 pass from Jared Lewis (Brandon run)