Gwynn Park ends No. 13 Harford Tech’s breakout campaign in 2A state football semifinals (VIDEO HERE!!)
by Adrian Martin
Special to VSN
The proverbial clock struck midnight on Harford Tech High’s Cinderella season Saturday.
Prince George’s County’s Gwynn Park ended the No. 13 Cobras’ historic run with a 15-9 decision in a Class 2A state football semifinal in Bel Air. The victory sends the Brandywine school (11-1 overall) to Saturday’s state final against Montgomery County’s powerhouse Damascus, the state’s third-ranked team, at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis.
A state final, let alone a winning season, wasn’t associated with Harford Tech at the beginning of the fall. The Harford County school had only one winning season in the prior 14 seasons.
After a 5-5 showing in 2016, Harford Tech (12-1) had its first perfect regular season this fall and won the UCBAC Susquehanna title.
“We’ve never been known to be a football powerhouse school, but the kids this year changed the culture and changed how we’re viewed across the state,” Cobras coach Tim Palmer said. “Seeing what they accomplished this year after being a mediocre football team, I’m very proud.”
After rallying with two late scores in the East Region final last weekend, Harford Tech was unable to work more fourth quarter magic Saturday.
Trailing by a touchdown, the hometown Cobras got the ball back with nearly three minutes left in regulation and all their timeouts. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Hunt’s pass for Jeremiah Minter was intercepted by Yellow Jackets’ Kibwe Galloway with 2 minutes, 23 seconds left in regulation. The Brandywine school ran out the remaining time, securing its first state final berth since 2005.
“We threw a pass that was literally inches from the wide receiver’s hands, and I think that would’ve changed the entire game,” Palmer said. “Maybe we could’ve gone to overtime, but it’s a funny game.”
It looked early on the Cobras’ season would come to quick and decisive end. Gwynn Park scored on its first possession and held Harford Tech to minus-3 yards and zero first downs.
“They punched us in the mouth from the first whistle to the (last) whistle of the half,” Tech senior running back Kyle Cicone said. “All season, we’ve kind of been a second-half team. Tonight, we just started off sluggish.”
After Gwynn Park pinned the Cobras deep in their own territory to start the game, it returned a punt to the Tech 30-yard line. Six plays later, Terrell Lindsey ran the ball in from the 1 to put the visitors up 6-0.
Gwynn Park sacked Hunt three times in the opening quarter, but gave the Cobras a break as an errant snap sailed over Yellow Jacket punter/kicker M’Baye Mohamed’s head for a safety. Mohamed – who missed the extra point after Gwynn Park’s first score – atoned with a 25-yard field goal.
The Cobras came alive in the third quarter, moving the chains four times during a nine-play, 64-yard drive. Hunt ended it with a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Noah Long, who beat his defender into the back left corner of the end zone to make an over-the-shoulder catch.
“(The Yellow Jackets) played fast and aggressive and what we’re doing traditionally wasn’t clicking like it normally does,” Palmer said. “We had to throw something different at them because they were playing the run on first down. We tried to spread them out with an unbalanced line, and that seemed to work.”
The Cobras’ defense answered, denying Gwynn Park on 4th-and-goal from the 1. Harford Tech got to ball to midfield, but the drive stalled.
“I thought that was going to put us over the top, but football is a game of inches,” Palmer said.
The Yellow Jackets regained the lead as quarterback Kamari Brown threw an 11-yard pass to Keivon Brooks with 7:14 left in regulation. Harford Tech decided to go for it on 4th down on the ensuing possession, but Hunt’s pass fell incomplete.
Tech got another chance, starting at its 1. After a pass interference call against Gwynn Park advanced the ball, Hunt lofted a pass downfield for Minter, and Galloway came over from his safety spot to capture the ball.
Though the Cobras’ season ended a win shy of a first state final, Cicone marveled at what did not seem possible.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve been on varsity for three years, and the best we’d done was 5-5. The journey to this point has been crazy.”
A journey Palmer believes will continue next season with the younger players.
“As far as the people we have now, the program is in good hands,” he said. “The tradition is going to carry on.”
CLASS 2A STATE SEMIFINAL
GWYNN PARK 16, NO. 13 HARFORD TECH 9
Gwynn Park 6 3 0 7 – 16
Harford Tech 0 2 7 0 – 9
GWYNN PARK – LINDSEY 1 RUN (KICK FAILED)
HARFORD TECH – SAFETY (PUNT SNAP OUT OF END ZONE)
GWYNN PARK – M’BAYE MOHAMED 25 FIELD GOAL
HARFORD TECH – NOAH LONG 20 PASS FROM RYAN HUNT (BRIGHT KICK)
GWYNN PARK – KEIVON BROOKS 11 PASS FROM KAMARI BROWN (MOHAMED KICK)