On two separate possessions in Dunbar’s 42-6 victory over Overlea in the state semifinals, the senior linebacker/running back ran for a touchdown. Then the officials called back the score with a flag for holding.
But that didn’t matter for Highsmith. He followed each penalty with another touchdown—both of these times penalty free. Highsmith’s first rushing touchdown came from 27 yards out with 8:48 to play in the third quarter. His second touchdown came from seven yards out with 4:30 remaining in the same quarter.
He finished the game with 70 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries.
“Our season isn’t over with, it’s just another step,” Highsmith said. “We felt Overlea was talking a lot all during the week. Now it was time to come out and perform. We succeeded in what we needed to do.”
Wide receiver Deontay McManus led the rushing attack with 93 yards on nine carries, all of which came in the second half. After McManus caught two passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in the first half, the Poets went into the pistol formation—which they call “Cowboy”—in the second half, with McManus the featured back.
Senior Terrence Williams chipped in 77 yards and a touchdown as well in Dunbar’s rout. In total, the Dunbar offense rushed for a whopping 319 yards in its third blowout in the state playoffs.
“That’s Dunbar football—smash mouth football,” offensive lineman Nicholas Bonaparte said.
The game opened slow offensively until the end of the first quarter. Sophomore quarterback William Crest threw a strike across the middle to tight end Ernest Hawkins, who finished the play for a 51-yard touchdown. Exactly 1:30 later, Crest threw a quick slant to McManus, who reached high to snag the ball before taking it 63 yards for another touchdown.
That gave the Poets a quick 14-0 cushion over Overlea heading into the second quarter. Dunbar didn’t score again until the third quarter, when Highsmith ran in his two touchdowns. Williams scored his touchdown on a 44-yard run off a fake punt with 7:47 to go in the fourth quarter.
Overlea scored its only touchdown with 1:50 to go in the game, but Dunbar wasn’t finished. After a poor kick was returned to Overlea’s 36 yard line, the Poets got the ball to the 25. Running back Nais Martin ran for two yards but fumbled. Offensive lineman Rodney Ginnage scooped the ball up and rumbled 23 yards into the end zone.
It was fitting that the offensive line, which paved the way for 319 rushing yards, scored the game’s final touchdown.
“We softened our opponent,” junior lineman Dariz Hill said. “If I find a weakness I’m going to hit you 24/7 in that weakness spot.”
The Poets will play Perryville this Saturday in their second consecutive championship game appearance. Last season, Dunbar defeated Havre de Grace 22-12 in the state finals. The Poets are looking for their sixth championship in the past eight seasons.
“We’ve got to get the job done,” McManus said. “If we don’t get the job done all of this was for nothing.”
by Jason Butt