In the postgame huddle after Dunbar High secured another state football championship berth Saturday afternoon, Poets coach Lawrence Smith focused on his seniors and their final week ahead.
Then, the longtime coach gave a blunt reminder at the end.
“All of this will not matter if we do not finish the job Saturday,” he said.
It will be again a “one-game season” for the No. 4 Dunbar, which defeated Calvert County’s Calvert in a Class 2A/1A state semifinal at Sugar Cain Field in East Baltimore. Seniors Tristen Kenan and Devin Roche combined for five rushing touchdowns.
Behind a bruising and methodical running game, the Poets (12-0 overall) easily punched their ticket to a record 15th state championship game. Dunbar will play Patuxent from Calvert County, which defeated Harford Tech in the other state semifinal Friday evening, Saturday at 12 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
“Coach Lawrence tells us everyday, we’re the hunted. Last year, we were the hunters, " said Poets senior defensive linemen Josh Fedd. “Everybody wants to jump on us.”
The 2021 season was about restoring the Poets’ championship aura after the 2020 campaign was canceled for COVID-19, and the last snapshot was a blowout loss to Frederick County’s Catoctin in the 2019 1A title match.
Dunbar won the 2A/1A state title last December, becoming the first school to win state football titles in four different classifications (won 3A in 1994, 2A in 1995, and 1A eight times).
The Poets, who have a record 11 state championships with three back-to-back runs, haven’t had consecutive undefeated seasons. They moved closer Saturday, winning its record 69th postseason decision.
Roche, the area’s consensus Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 who missed several weeks during the fall with a foot injury, rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Kenan added 121 and two scores on 20 carries.
The Poets rushed for 365 yards Saturday.
“We knew we had to keep the legs moving, getting five (yards) a pop,” said Kenan. “We knew they couldn’t stop us.”
The Poets needed just four plays to get into the end zone after Kenan intercepted Calvert quarterback Stevie Oursler on the game’s third play. Roche scored from three yards completing a four-play, 38-yard series.
Roche returned to the end zone, this time from a yard to finish off a 11-play, 65-yard drive. The Poets scored on their first three drives in the opening half.
Calvert finally slowed Dunbar’s offense on the first series of the second half, only to see its offense turned away on fourth-and-2 inside the Poets’ 50. On the next play, Roche got the snap, burst through in the middle and went untouched to the end zone, pushing Dunbar’s lead to 32-0 with 7 minutes, 33 seconds left in the third.
Smith said he sent Roche a download of Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement,” earlier in the week.
“You need to remind people who you are in these playoffs,” said Smith. “As we can see, he hasn’t missed a beat.”
Dunbar’s defense allowed its first points of the postseason as Oursler connected with Erron Touch on a slant for a 33-yard touchdown.
The Poets had five sacks Saturday with Fedd recording two. Senior Donald Smith had an interception.
“We played a solid 48 minutes,” said Smith, whose team has outscored opponents, 160-7, in the postseason. “We felt we could take away their strengths.”
The last time Dunbar won consecutive titles was a three-peat from 2010 to 2012 in Class 1A.
The Poet senior class, who lost the 2020 season to COVID-19, hope to leave a legacy with a 26th straight victory Saturday at Navy.
“It’s the last ride. This is what we wanted, this is what we’ve prayed for,” said Redd. “Now, we got to finish and execute, and get that second ring.”
CLASS 2A/1A STATE SEMIFINAL
NO. 4 DUNBAR 46, CALVERT 7
Calvert 0 0 7 0 - 7
Dunbar 16 8 8 14 - 46
Dunbar - Devin Roche 3 run (Tristen Kenan run)
Dunbar - Roche 1 run (Kenan run)
Dunbar - Kenan 1 run (Kenan run)
Dunbar - Roche 54 run (Kenan run)
Calvert - Erron Touch 33 pass from Stevie Oursler (Keith Baker kick)
Dunbar - Kenan 4 run (Kenan run)
Dunbar - Deshawn Parks 4 run (game over)
MPSSAA FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT
Charles H. Flowers 20, Henry A. Wise 13
Fort Hill 43, Joppatowne 6
Mountain Ridge 49, Brunswick 29
Patuxent 43, Harford Tech 21
Milford Mill 40, Stephen Decatur 33
Kent Island 14, Middletown 7
Damascus 42, River Hill 7
Oakdale 27, St. Charles 22
Arundel 6, Dundalk 0
North Point 17, Urbana 0
Quince Orchard 42, Broadneck 9
at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
CLASS 4A - Quince Orchard (13-0) vs. Flowers (13-0), 7 p.m.
CLASS 2A - Kent Island (12-1) vs. Milford Mill (13-0), 4 p.m.
CLASS 4A/3A - North Point (10-3) vs. Arundel (10-2), 7:30 p.m.
CLASS 2A/1A - Patuxent (11-2) vs. Dunbar (12-0), 12 p.m.
CLASS 1A - Fort Hill (12-1) vs. Mountain Ridge (13-0), 3:30 p.m.
CLASS 3A - Oakdale (11-2) vs. Damascus (11-1), 7 p.m.