Class 1A State Championship
No. 17 Havre de Grace (11-2) vs. No. 8 Dunbar (12-1)
When: Saturday, 12 p.m.
Where: M & T Bank Stadium
ROAD TO M & T BANK
Havre de Grace: defeated Cambridge-South Dorchester (41-21) and Bohemia Manor (40-34) to win East Region; defeated Brunswick, 34-14, in state semifinals
Dunbar: defeated Southside Academy (60-0) and Forest Park (32-12) to win South Region; defeated Forest Park, 20-14, in state semifinals
Havre de Grace-Darin Washington: 138 of 235, 2,164 yards; 25 TDs, 11 INTs; Dunbar-Kevin Estep: 57 of 88, 803 yards, 11 TDs, 2 INTs
Havre de Grace-Mike Kelly: 169 carries, 1,318 yards, 11 TDs; Dunbar-Epe Henriques: 153 carries, 1,129 yards, 9 TDs
Havre de Grace-Monty Werts: 54 catches, 838 yards, 9 TDs; Dunbar-Deontay McManus: 23 catches, 324 yards 5 TDs
Havre de Grace-Mike Kelly: 17; Dunbar-Deontay McManus & Epe Henriques: 10 each
DEFENSIVE LEADERS (through regionals)
Havre de Grace-Jordan Stallings: 108; Dunbar-Travon Garrett: 137
Havre de Grace-not available; Dunbar-Lavar Highsmith: 15
Havre de Grace-Travon Bond: 10; Dunbar-Aaron Haynes & Leland Lassiter 4
The second all-area final of championship weekend matches arguably the two most athletic teams in the 1A field. The Poets and Warriors didn’t have to leave its home area in regional and state semifinal play.
Havre de Grace ran past Brunswick to secure its first state finals appearance in three decades last weekend. Dunbar needed a late touchdown to fend off Fort Hill at Poly’s Lumsden-Scott Stadium for its fourth title game trip in five seasons.
Havre de Grace’s defense vs. Dunbar’s offense
Talk about going from one extreme to another for Havre de Grace. Last week, the Warriors did a good job containing Brunswick’s 6-foot-6, 255-pound quarterback Ian Fisher (16 for 28, 180 yards, 1 TD), a major Division I prospect.
The Poets will have behind center Kevin Estep, who at 5-foot-4 and 135 pounds look like a Pop Warner quarterback. The sophomore has been the stabilizing influence on offense and calmly directed the winning touchdown drive last weekend against Fort Hill, scoring on a 1-yard dive with three seconds remaining in regulation.
Senior running back Epe Henriques, a Joppatowne transfer, had a monster game last weekend with 233 yards against Fort Hill. If the Poets can win at the point of attack, they’ll be more than content to play three yards and a cloud of dust with Henriques, JaQuan Holt and Charles Brown.
Havre de Grace will have to show its physicality up front and capitalize on turnovers. Though Dunbar has better in recent weeks, it will make an error or two with the ball.
Havre de Grace’s offense vs. Dunbar’s defense
The Warriors may pose the biggest challenge the Poets’ defense have faced all season. Washington is arguably the area’s top quarterback prospect in the Class of 2012.
Kelly rushed for 285 yards and three touchdowns in last weekend, raising his postseason total to 685 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was against the likes of Cambridge-South Dorchester, Bo Manor and Brunswick. Dunbar is an entirely different animal.
The Poets, led by senior linebackers Travon Garrett and Andre Cudanin can match up with the Warriors’ skill players. Dunbar has allowed just 44 points over its last 11 contests.
If Saturday’s game with Fort Hill was any indication, Dunbar is vulnerable against the pass which plays to Havre de Grace’s strength. It’ll be an interesting chess match.
This is the first state finals appearance for Havre de Grace since 1988, the last of three straight Class 1A title game trips. Dunbar is 6-1 all-time in state finals, 4-0 at M & T Bank Stadium. If the Warriors aren’t phased by the Poets’ title game mystique, they have the talent to take Dunbar the distance.
Havre de Grace’s only losses were No. 1 Calvert Hall (55-0) and North Harford (29-20) which went 11-0 before losing in the Class 3A North Region finals to Franklin, which played for the state finals. Dunbar’s only setback was a week two loss to Patterson (32-20), which shared the Baltimore City Division I crown with Poets before losing to unbeaten Urbana in the 4A North Region finals.
Havre de Grace coach Johnny Brooks, who quarterbacked the Warriors to the 1981 1A state championship is Washington’s cousin. The Poets have second-most victories in state postseason history. The last time a Harford County school won a state title was 2003 when Aberdeen (2A) and Joppatowne (1A) were victorious.