It couldn’t afford to, since for the seniors this would be the last game they’d ever play. So when the second half opened, the Poets relied on two of those seniors in two plays to push them where they needed to go.
Senior Lavar Highsmith took the second half’s opening kickoff and ran it down to the Perryville 25 yard line, setting the Poets up with excellent field position in the third quarter. Senior fullback Charles Brown took the handoff on the next play and scurried 25 yards toward the left side of the end zone. The 2-point conversion gave Dunbar a 16-11 lead.
The Poets eventually put the Panthers away 32-11, capturing the 2011 MPSSAA Class 1A state championship.
“I had seen the linebackers would shift to the right side to try to stop the off tackle runs,” Brown said. “I pointed it out to my coach, he called my number and I made a play.”
Offensively, the second half belonged to Dunbar after it struggled in the opening two quarters. Perryville did its best to eliminate receiver Deontay McManus from the game plan, who was limited to just two receptions for 29 yards. However, McManus added four carries on the ground for 58 yards. But the biggest offensive play of the game came on McManus’ last carry of the game.
With under three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Poets were holding on to a 16-11 lead. It was third-and-6 from Perryville’s 29 yard line. A Panthers stop would give them another chance to drive down the field to upset Dunbar for the crown.
That wouldn’t happen on this particular Saturday. McManus lined up as a running back in the pistol formation (which Dunbar dubs “Cowboy”) and took the handoff. He cut once before seeing a hole and racing toward the end zone.
His 29-yard touchdown rush effectively iced the state championship for Dunbar, giving the Poets their sixth state title in eight seasons, and McManus and the senior class their third championship in four seasons.
“When my number was called I had to do what I had to do to make a play for my team,” McManus said. “This win meant everything to me in my senior year to get this state championship. That was my goal and that was everybody’s goal since day one of summer practice.”
Quarterback William Crest finished 5-12 for 131 yards, which included a beautiful 40-yard pass to tight end Ernest Hawkins in the first half.
“We had people doubting us,” Crest said. “It’s just an awesome feeling now.”
by Jason Butt