They were in a state of disbelief.For most of its game against Poly, Dunbar felt like it was in control despite the close score. Except for Poly’s first scoring drive in the first quarter, the Dunbar defense was sound in most phases. Dunbar’s offense controlled the ball with the running game.
But Poly hung around, and by the fourth quarter it capitalized on enough Dunbar mistakes to take an 18-14 win over the Poets and stay undefeated for the season.
It was the first time in Poly coach Roger Wrenn’s six years at the school that the Engineers beat Dunbar.
“We told them don’t leave anything in the locker room, leave it all on the field,” Wrenn said. “The last thing I told them was when you wake up tomorrow, be able to look in the mirror and say I did everything I could to get a victory.”
While the Poly players celebrated their big win, many of the Poets were in shock. Linebacker Lavar Highsmith paced back and forth after the refs signaled the end of the game on the field. Receiver Deontay McManus walked around with his hands on his hips as if he couldn’t believe the Poets let one slip away.
“It’s a nasty feeling in my mouth,” McManus said. “That’s all I can say. Both teams played hard. Give it up to Poly, give it up to Dunbar. They just made more plays than us. In crucial times, their playmakers made more plays. Everybody played hard, everybody made plays. But it came down to that one mistake. We made one more mistake than they did.”
Dunbar had all the momentum after marching down the field on a 98-yard drive for a touchdown in the third quarter. McManus capped the drive with a 1-yard score to put the Poets up 14-6. But Poly answered on a 14-play, 83-yard drive of its own to score a touchdown. The Engineers failed on a two-point conversion attempt, allowing the Poets to hold on to a 14-12 lead.
Dunbar recovered an onside kick at the 50 yard line and went to work to run out the clock. McManus, who was used as the team’s feature running back against Poly, ran for a 12-yard gain on the first play, but was stopped to runs on three yards and one yard on his next two carries. A false start then put Dunbar in a tough third-and-12 situation.
Dunbar quarterback William Crest dropped back to throw and found receiver Aaron Haynes for 23 yards. But as Haynes caught the ball and turned upfield, he was hit by Poly defensive back Nigel Benjamin. The ball came loose, and Benjamin recovered the fumble.
Dunbar’s defense came up with two tackles for loss before giving up a 19-yard screen pass from Poly quarterback Derrell Milburn to receiver Jordan Garrison. Milburn then scampered for a 43-yard gain and took the next play 37 yards for a touchdown to put the Engineers up 18-14.
“It was our fault,” Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said. “We gave up the big play, it happens. We fumbled, that happens.”
Wrenn admitted he was worried when the Engineers’ two-point conversion try to tie failed, because Dunbar had so much success running the ball.“We thought we had to control the ball to some extent because they’re just so big and powerful inside,” Wrenn said. “I thought we slowed them down at times but it was just going to be very difficult to stop them if they just marched it for 20 or 25 plays. We got the turnover and that was just huge.”
The win kept Poly’s undefeated season alive and guaranteed at least a share of the Baltimore City Division 1 championship. Wrenn considers the victory over Dunbar one of the best wins in the historical program’s history.
McManus had hopes of an undefeated season when he entered his final season with the Poets. But a forfeit against Southwestern in Week 2—forced by the Poets’ on-field fight with Dunbar (D.C.) in their opening game—and this stinging loss to Poly are failings he doesn’t want to repeat as the home stretch of Dunbar’s schedule approaches.
“Right now, we’re going to keep this taste in our mouth so we make sure we never taste it again,” McManus said. “We’re going to come to practice and work even harder so we don’t make this mistake again.”
by Jason Butt