Catonsville High's 28-18 victory over Poly at Baltimore Polytechnic High Friday night earned them the school's first-ever regional football championship and a place in history for a couple of reasons.
"I'm so happy for these guys because they are the first ones to do it and they are always going to be that and nobody can take that away," said Catonsville coach Rich Hambor whose squad advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals against Old Mill, Friday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m.
Catonsville (12-0) also will go down as the last team that Poly coach Roger Wrenn will ever face after 40 years of coaching.
"I feel special and I'm glad he was involved in it because he is one of the greatest coaches in the history of Maryland," Hambor said. "To be involved in a game with him, you know it's going to be a classy game, a classic game and I couldn't be prouder to play against him, regardless of the win. He's a great guy."
After scouting the Comets, Wrenn and his undersized Engineers (11-1) may have preferred facing another opponent.
"When I scouted these guys, I thought, boy, they are big and physical and we are little and its going to be a battle for us," Wrenn said.
Catonsville dominated the battle in the trenches behind an offensive line that featured center Nathan Reeves, guards Jon Reymann and Brandon Dixon, tackles Travis Davis and Antoine Wright and tight end Julian Jones
They helped the Comet backs gain 409 of the team's 437 total yards on the ground.
DeAndre Lane rushed for three touchdowns and carried 44 times for 281 yards.
Fullback Julian Singletary ran 11 times for 100 yards and Josh Hylton had three rushes for 21 yards.
"It's their personality to run the ball and run it and run it and run it and play that power game until you stop it," Wrenn said.
Poly never could stop it consistently.
On Catonsville's first possession, the Comets went 75 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 15-yard run by Singletary on a trap.
They led 7-0 with 8:32 left in the first quarter when Eric Medinger hit the first of four extra points.
"Jon Reymann was just outstanding today," Hambor said. "He was the right guard making the trap block."
Dixon and left guard Reeves were also perfect in their assignments.
"Every time we ran the trap, they blocked perfectly and I got in the open field and it felt great," Singletary said.
Poly answered with an 8-play 63-yard drive that culminated in a 25-yard touchdown scamper from quarterback Darrell Milburn.
Joseth Hylton sacked Milburn on the two-point conversion attempt and the Comets maintained a 7-6 lead.
Catonsville responded on its next series, taking eight snaps again and logging 53 yards. Lane went 24-yards for a score on the first play of the second quarter and the Comets led 14-6.
They almost scored again before the half when Julian Jones sacked Milburn for a 9-yard loss and Jones and Singletary stopped Milburn for a 6-yard loss, leading to a punt that gave the Comets possession at their own 40.
After a short completion from quarterback Aaron Jones to Sean Lipscomb, Singletary gained 48 yards on three of the next four plays.
They eventually got to the 3-yard line, but an offensive pass interference penalty backed them up and Medinger missed a 34-yard field goal as time expired.
Poly fumbled on the sixth play of the second half when Joseth Hylton leveled Milburn and Jerome Williams recovered at the Comet 30.
Catonsville was forced to punt, and two plays after the kick, Milburn connected for a 57-yard touchdown pass to Orville Keize, making it 14-12.
The game-tying conversion attempt was foiled when Milburn made a late pitch on the option and Williams stuffed Jamal Chappell at the one-yard line to preserve the lead.
"I kind of saw the quarterback didn't have anywhere to go so I just took him (Chappell) and made the play," said Williams, who was a starting running back along with Lane at the beginning of the season, but broke his collarbone in the second game and didn't return until the final week of the regular season.
Although he hasn't contributed in the offensive backfield, he was a welcome addition to the secondary.
"I'm happy to be back with my boys," said Williams, who never lost faith watching from the sidelines. "I had confidence in our team."
Lane, who has gained 468 yards in two playoff games, and has 1,661 yards over 12 games, also had confidence in his offensive line with the big boys up front.
On the next series after Poly pulled within two, Lane carried the ball on eight of the 10 plays on and 80-yard drive that ended with him racing 25 yards for a touchdown on fourth and inches while Hambor was trying to call a time out.
"The line did a beautiful job tonight," Lane said. "I'm so proud of all of them. They were holding their blocks and I would hit the hole and do what I had to do to win the game."
His score pushed the lead to 21-12 with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Catonsville's tenacious defense fed off the offense and stopped the Engineers on downs on the next possession.
But the Comets were stopped on fourth and inches at the Poly 48. Three plays later Milburn connected with Jordan Garrison on a 20-yard touchdown strike making it 21-18 with 7:16 left in the fourth quarter.
Catonsville didn't sweat on the 36 degree night.
They got great position on a botched onsides kick and turned to Lane, who went 28 yards on the first play and carried the ball four more times into the end zone, completing a 45-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 5:12 remaining.
Poly never threatened again and its season ended along with the storied career of storied coach Wrenn who finished 285-114-2.
"I would not trade this time and this career for anything or any amount of money," Wrenn said. "It's been the most wonderful journey."
Hambor, in his eighth season at Catonsville, improved his career mark to 57-29 and said in comparison to Wrenn's 285 wins, "I'm not going anywhere."
But, he hopes his fans are ready to go anywhere.
"I'm so happy for the community," Hambor said. "We had so many people here tonight. It was like a home game. I hope they come next week, whether it's home or away. I'm happy for Catonsville because they are the best people around — the best fans in the land and they deserve it."
Julian Jones was even more excited.
"I feel like a champion," he said. "All four years of high school, I just dreamed of this, even when I played rec ball, to have a team like this go undefeated. They are not only my teammates — they are my brothers."