Dunbar High was dominant in reaching the Class 2A/1A state football championship game. The No. 4 Poets were far from that Saturday, but was able to secure their place in history.
Dunbar captured its second straight title with a 22-13 victory over Southern Maryland’s Patuxent at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Senior quarterback Devin Roche accounted for 201 yards and threw for a touchdown and Tony Hart added a rushing score.
The Poets (13-0 overall) used explosive plays to wipe out an early two-score deficit before their defense made several critical stops in the fourth quarter to claim a record 12th state championship.
Dunbar completed a second consecutive undefeated season for the first time in program history.
“A lot of folks expected after the way we beat Calvert last week that we were going to dismantle this team,” said Poets coach Lawrence Smith, whose team outscored its first four playoff opponents, 168-7.
Patuxent (11-3), seeking its first title since 2015, did not blink Saturday, leading 13-0 inside the first 10 minutes. The Calvert County school was on the cusp of taking the lead late in regulation when Anthony Campbell produced the biggest play of the season for Dunbar.
The junior linebacker stepped in front of Patuxent quarterback Evan Blouir’s pass intended for Jaiden Abreu. Campbell, 6-foot-1, 230-pounds, went 84 yards down the sidelines in front of the Poets’ bench for a touchdown, helping Dunbar to a 22-13 advantage with 3:14 left in regulation.
“My coach told me to watch the roll out…we had gotten beat on that play before,” said Campbell. “I picked it off and saw nothing but green…Big time players make plays in big time games.”
Campbell’s pick-six was the biggest of several momentum-shifting plays in Dunbar’s state- record 70 postseason victory Saturday. Hart pulled down Roche’s bomb down the middle for 52 yards in the second quarter.
Five plays later, Hart (102 all-purpose yards), an Elon University commit, took an inside handoff from Campbell and got to the corner of the end zone, putting Dunbar on the scoreboard for the first time. The Poets acquired the lead at halftime, thanks to Roche.
With the ball at Dunbar’s 35-yard line after Patuxent was flagged for a late hit on a punt return, Roche scrambled for 30 yards. The Panthers drew another penalty, this time for grabbing Roche’s facemask, putting the ball at Patuxent’s 38 with eight seconds remaining in the first half.
On the final play, Roche, whose leg cramped up as he pulled the ball from center, released a throw to the end zone. Antonio Lyde (110 all-purpose yards) came down with the ball for a touchdown with no time left. Lyde ran in the two-point conversion and Dunbar had the lead.
“It’s about trusting the man next to you,” said Roche, who was quickly carried off the field by Smith who wanted to get the two-point conversion run without delay. “That’s why we were so successful this year, trusting each other.”
After being stung early, the Poets’ defense kept Patuxent at bay. Josh Fedd and Detwan Player (eight tackles each) two sacks and 1 ½ sack, respectively, while Hart (seven tackles), Tristan Kenan and Shantron Moore each added an interceptionE.
Smith, who won his state-record tying eighth title, said the Poets’ Homecoming victory over Dunbar (D.C.) as well as Baltimore City league wins over Mervo and Poly, helped his team grind out a victory Saturday.
And, complete another successful “era” for the Poets, who’ve won 26 straight games following the cancellation of the 2020 season for COVID.
“When COVID hit, they went to the gym on their own, we would have virtual practices…they did all this,” said Smith. “It’s so gratifying…I told Devin this will be the end of an era when this is over and we go up that walkway together.”
“It was the hard work that nobody else saw and knowing that nobody else worked as hard as you, that’s what keeps you going and knowing you got something left in the thank.” said Roche, who’s committed to Old Dominion. “It was all about finishing what we started.”
CLASS 2A/1A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
NO. 4 DUNBAR 22, PATUXENT 13
Patuxent 13 0 0 0 - 13
Dunbar 0 14 0 8 – 22
Patuxent - Evan Blouir 44 run (Colin McDermott kick)
Patuxent - Brendon Standa 6 pass from Blouir (kick failed)
Dunbar - Tony Hart 7 run (run failed)
Dunbar - Antonio Lyde 35 pass from Devin Roche (Lyde run)
Dunbar - Antonio Campbell 84 interception return (Hart pass from Lyde)