Douglass-Prince George’s ends No. 5 Dunbar’s reign in 1A state football; Price and Tolbert break long TD runs (VIDEO HERE!)

Dunbar’s Deon Crews-Harris (left) leaves the field as a teammate bends over in disbelief after Saturday’s Class 1A state football semifinal. The No. 5 Poets’ repeat bid and 23-game winning streak was ended by Prince George’s County’s Douglass in the rain at Poly’s Lumdsen-Scott Stadium.

by Donald Daniels

A season of dominance came to an unlikely end for Dunbar High football Saturday.

The fifth-ranked Poets lost to Prince George’s County’s Douglass, 20-6, in a Class 1A state semifinal match at Poly’s Lumdsen/Scott Stadium. Ge-odi Tolbert and Zavier Price each had a rushing touchdown for Douglass (8-4 overall).

The Upper Marlboro school, which advanced out of the South Region as the No. 3 seed (14th overall in 1A tournament based on point average), will play western Maryland’s Fort Hill for the state title Saturday afternoon at Navy. The Sentinels defeated Havre de Grace, 43-6, in the other 1A semifinal Saturday afternoon in Cumberland.

Since the start of the season, another Dunbar-Fort Hill title showdown was a forgone conclusion. The Poets rolled through the regular season (outscored opponents, 387-28), winning a second straight Baltimore City Division I crown. They didn’t allowed a point (vs. Douglass-Baltimore and Reginald Lewis) in the South Region playoffs.

Dunbar (11-1), the No. 1 overall seed in 1A, will not play for the 1A state championship for the first time since 2009.

“In state semifinal games you got to take advantage of opportunities,” said Poets coach Lawrence Smith, whose team’s area-best 23-game winning streak was snapped. “You can not miss opportunities and that is what we did today.”

The Poets failed to capitalize on a couple of potential scoring drives, but penalties and an energized Eagle squad that matched Dunbar’s speed conspired to end the Orleans Street school’s bid for an 11th state title.

Tied at 6 in the fourth quarter, Tolbert ran up the middle of the Dunbar defense, broke three tackles and raced down the right sideline for a 66-yard touchdown with 6 minutes left in regulation.

It was Tolbert’s first carry.

“I saw the opportunity. I haven’t played much running back all year, but my mindset was if I got the ball I was going to score,” Tolbert said. “I got some space and that was all… We were the underdogs, but we gained the momentum and just kept going from there.”

Price added the 2-point conversion for a 14-6 advantage. The Eagles forced a three-and-out and regained possession with just over four minutes left to play. On 4th down, Price burst through a hole and went to the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown, cementing the win.

In 2014, Douglass defeated Dunbar in the 2A state final at M&T Bank Stadium, capping a perfect season and the final No. 1 ranking in the state media poll. The 2018 edition is a far cry, going 5-4 in the regular season.

Eagles coach J.C. Pinkney believed playing in the tough Prince George’s County ranks helped them Saturday.

“Dunbar is a really talented team and we felt as though if we could keep them in stressful environment, it would give us a chance to win down the stretch,” Pinkney said. “That is what we did and our guys played in stressful environments, so it is nothing new to us.”

The Eagles put Dunbar in an unusual position, taking their first drive 85 yards with senior quarterback Devin Harding finding Alajah Dawson in the back corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. It was the first time Dunbar had trailed since last year’s 1A state final against Fort Hill.

The Poets were able to put positive plays together to get back into the game. Dunbar went 73 yards as Andre Brandon’s 2-yard run score tied the game at 6. Sophomore quarterback Derrick Dunn highlighted the drive with a 26-yard run to Douglass’ 3-yard line.

The Poets appeared to be finding its offensive stride to start the second half with runs from Dunn, Deon Crews-Harris and Brandon moving the ball from their 37 to Douglass’ 10. They went backwards, however, as sophomore linebacker Earl Shepherd II forced back-to-back tackles for losses.

Dunbar turned the ball over on downs at Douglass’ 9. Doshon Davis recovered a fumble for Dunbar at its’ 37, but couldn’t convert.

“We fell behind the chains, and that really messed us up,” said Brandon, who had 99 yards on 18 carries. “That’s what really gave them confidence.”

The Poets quietly left the field as Douglass celebrated in a steady rain. It’s the first time Dunbar lost a state semifinal as the home team.

Douglass running back Zavier Price (22) tries to gain yardage as Dunbar’s Joshua Carr brings him down. Price broke a 60-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, sealing the Prince George’s County’s squad ticket to Saturday’s state 1A final against Fort Hill at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

“We accomplished a lot. Most programs, this would still be elation,” Smith said. “One thing about us, we’ve done so much that people get used to us winning state championships. But it’s still hats off to my squad for doing what they did.”

Class 1A state semifinal

at Poly

Douglass-Prince George’s 20, No. 5 Dunbar 6

Douglass 6 0 0 14 – 20

Dunbar 0 6 0 0 – 6

First quarter

Douglass: Alajah Dawson 5 pass from Devin Harding (run failed)

Second quarter

Dunbar: Andre Brandon 2 run (run failed)

Fourth quarter

Douglass: Ge-odi Tolbert 66 run (Xavier Price run)

Douglass: Price 60 run (run failed)