City College High’s football team returned to the state playoffs for the first time since 2007 Saturday afternoon against Douglass, enjoying its first trip to the state postseason.
The Ducks had several exciting moments, but Knights were too much for the west Baltimore school, posting a 46-20 decision in a Class 2A North Region semifinal at Poly’s Lumsden-Scott Stadium.
City running back Da’Quan Smith rushed for 111 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries, and senior fullback Tre Smith bulldozed his way to a touchdown and 88 rushing yards on only six first-half attempts. Junior quarterback Steffin Wilkins ran for two scores and threw for another as the Knights (8-3) will play No. 6 Eastern Tech for the region title next weekend at CCBC-Essex.
“We practiced hard all week and did a good job of simulating their defense with our practice squad,” said Smith. “Our offensive line did a great job of picking up their blitz and I was able to get to the outside a lot running the ball.”
City jumped out to a 14-0 lead following James’ 25-yard touchdown gallop through the interior of Douglass’ defense with a little more than five minutes remaining in the opening quarter. The Ducks (8-3) got their first postseason touchdown, courtesy of quarterback Carlos Croslin.
As Croslin dropped back to pass with defenders in hot pursuit, he executed a mesmerizing fake of a screen pass. A pursuing City defender who had Croslin within arms reach, suddenly halted his pursuit and changed direction, running toward the receiver poised to gather the screen pass.
The only problem was Croslin still had the ball. Freed from pressure, he planted his feet and unleashed a perfect throw to Maleek Williams down the middle of the field over two City defensive backs for a 49-yard score.
City responded with a five-play, 69-yard scoring drive, capped by an one-yard run by Smith. The drive was highlighted by Smith ripping off a 28-yard scamper on the previous play and a thunderous 30-yard bull-rush by James, where he flattened numerous would-be tacklers through the middle of the Ducks defense.
Croslin, who amassed over 2,600 yards this season, swung back with his own highlight reel play on Douglass’ next series. On a second and eight on his own 34 yard-line, he was flushed out of the pocket and proceeded to slice his way through a wave Knights defenders. He hurdled over one defender en route to an eye-dropping 66-yard touchdown run.
“It’s hard to simulate [Croslin] in practice,” said City coach George Petrides. “We showed them films and tried to simulate what he does, but it’s hard to see how good he actually is in terms of eluding tacklers and running downfield until you face him in a game.”
Croslin accounted for all three Douglass scores, throwing for two touchdowns in addition to his remarkable run. In between those moments of brilliance, City’s defensive pressure harassed him, leading to five sacks and two lost fumbles.
“We made a slight adjustment on their quarterback that seemed to work after halftime, but he’s very good and still kept us off-balance like he’s done everyone else this year,” said Petrides.
Smith’s 30-yard run sent City into intermission with a 26-14 advantage, then added three more unanswered scores in the second half to pull away.
“Our defense has been doing the job all year,” said Petrides. “Our three losses have all been by a touchdown and our offensive line did a great job. We were able to stop their blitzing penetration and get outside and our skill guys did the rest from there.”