No. 9 Dunbar tops Havre de Grace for 1A state football final berth (VIDEO HERE!!)
As the final seconds ticked in Dunbar High’s victory over Havre de Grace in a Class 1A state football semifinal Saturday, Poets coach Lawrence Smith received a celebratory water bucket dousing.
It’s back to the state final for No. 9 Dunbar after a 52-27 decision over the 19th-ranked Warriors at Sugar Cain Field in east Baltimore. Senior quarterback Jared Lewis threw three touchdowns for the Poets (11-1 overall), and Andre Brandon and Alphonso Graham each added two rushing scores.
Dunbar established an 18-0 halftime advantage before out-gunning the Harford County school in the second half to win its state-best 55th postseason match. The Poets will play four-time defending champ Fort Hill from western Maryland for the state title, Saturday afternoon at 3:30 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
It’s the first state final for Dunbar since 2014 when they lost to Prince George’s County’s Douglass in the 2A final at M&T Bank Stadium. The Poets lost to eventual state champ Frederick County’s Walkersville in last year’s 2A state semifinals.
After starting the season with a 49-42 road loss to Allegany, Smith challenged his squad.
“We said we weren’t losing another game and needed to focus in,” said Smith. “We felt we had a dynamic offense and a great defense. We just wanted to play our game.”
“It motivated us in a big way,” Poet junior Raekwon Walker. “We said we weren’t going to lose again, so we came together, gained more chemistry and then we just won a lot of games.”
The Poets have won 11 straight with what Smith affectionally called “a bunch of nobodies” earlier in the season. Lewis, a two-year starter, went 17-of-28 for 300 yards with scoring throws to Malik McCormick (71 yards) and Shaun Tolbert (44).
Graham finished with 245 yards rushing on just 12 carries, including scoring runs of 59 and 80 yards. Senior linebacker Dwayne Johnson had two sacks and Jason Elliott recovered a fumble.
Walker, a junior, was the ignitor Saturday. He caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Lewis, capping a game-opening seven-play, 89-yard drive.
In the second quarter, Walker intercepted Havre de Grace quarterback at Dunbar’s 1 and returned the ball to the 43. Four plays later, Lewis connected with Tolbert, giving the Orleans Street school an 18-0 lead.
Walker added an one-handed pick late in the half. He also had five catches for 60 yards.
“He’s been doing this all year,” said Smith. “Nobody knew who he was.”
Andre Brandon finished with 106 yards for Dunbar, which finished with 660 yards. The Poets have scored 148 points in the postseason.
After a rough first half, Havre de Grace (11-2) put up 27 points in the second half as junior quarterback Alex Gresock (17-of-33, 173 yards) threw scoring passes to Jahmaad Stansbury and Jordan White. Brandon Rabbitt returned a fumble 62 yards for a touchdown.
Gresock connected with White (eight catches, 96 yards) from 12 yards to open the second half scoring, but Graham answered just four plays later with a 59-yard sprint. The Poets went 43 yards in five plays in their next drive, capped with Brandon’s five-yard run, extending the lead to 34-7 with 3:04 remaining in the third.
Sean Greeley got the Warriors back on the board with a 15-yard run. The next play from scrimmage, Graham got a sweep toss, hit the corner and blazed down the Poet sidelines for a 80-yard score.
Though his squad couldn’t keep up with the Poets, Havre de Grace coach Brian Eberhardt, whose team lost to Fort Hill in the past two 1A final, was pleased with their tenacity.
“This is our third straight year in the state semifinals and the guys have really worked hard in the offseason,” said Eberhardt, whose team is the first Harford County program to make three straight state semifinals since C. Milton Wright (4; 1992-1995). “To come down here and play a really really good Dunbar team and I could not be more proud with the way we finished.”
The Poets, seeking an area-best 10th state title, will cross paths with a familiar foe in Fort Hill. It will be the fifth meeting in the championship round (sixth overall; Dunbar is 5-1).
The Sentinels (12-1), ranked 13th in the state media poll, will try to become the first program to win five consecutive state titles. Fort Hill’s four-year title run coincided with Dunbar playing in 2A.
“This means a lot. We’ve bounced back from that first loss and haven’t looked back,” said Lewis. “We’re just excelling.”
CLASS 1A STATE SEMIFINAL
NO. 9 DUNBAR 52, NO. 19 HAVRE DE GRACE 27
Havre de Grace 0 0 0 14 13 – 27
Dunbar 10 8 22 12 – 52
DUNBAR – Raekwon Walker 24 pass from Jared Lewis (Shawn Tolbert pass from Lewis)
DUNBAR – Safety (Intentional grounding penalty in end zone)
DUNBAR – Sean Tolbert 44 pass from Lewis (Malik McCormick pass from Lewis)
HAVRE DE GRACE – Jordan White 12 pass from Gresock (Clay Harris kick)
DUNBAR – Alphonso Graham 59 run (Brandon pass from Lewis)
DUNBAR – Andre Brandon Brandon 5 run (Lewis run)
HAVRE DE GRACE – Sean Greeley 15 run (Harris kick)
DUNBAR – Graham 80 run (run failed)
HAVRE DE GRACE – Brandon Rabbitt 62 fumble return (Harris kick)
DUNBAR – Brandon 45 run (pass failed)
DUNBAR – McCormick 71 pass from Lewis (run failed)
HAVRE DE GRACE – Jahmaad Stansbury 24 pass from Gresock (final play, no conversion attempt)