The final score of Glenelg's 40-20 loss to visiting Douglass (PG) in the Class 2A South regional championship game Friday night didn't indicate what a tense, hard-fought game it had been.
Indeed, the Gladiators (9-3) trailed 28-20 in the fourth quarter and had some momentum after driving 73 yards in 11 plays to score on a fourth-down, five-yard pass from Mark Darden to Christian Salandra, who made an acrobatic catch in the endzone.
But all their hope and momentum seemed to disintegrate when Josef Hinnant returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a demoralizing touchdown with 10:37 left to play. "Most teams won't kick it to me because I returned one for a touchdown against Surrattsville and I usually get a lot of yardage on my returns,'' said Hinnant.
On its next possession Glenelg turned the ball over on downs at Douglass' 40 yard line, when Darden's scrambling fourth-down run failed to gain a first down. The Gladiators would have had a first on third down if not for a pass drop.
And on Glenelg's next possession, Darden threw a game-clinching interception that Hinnant returned 11 yards for a touchdown.
"We played hard all year,'' said Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer. "But the better team won. They deserve to move on and I wish them luck.''
Douglass (10-2) had the more balanced attack with 244 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. Hinnant, Emmanuel Smith and quarterback Taitor Reynolds, Jr., combined for almost all of the rushing yards, and Reynolds was outstanding passing, completing 10 of 12 for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Paul Harris was his main receiver with seven catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
Glenelg had a productive 261 yards rushing, including 103 by Nick Crabill. But the passing game produced a meager 11 yards on four completions in 10 attempts.
"We knew we'd be challenged by their run,'' said Douglass coach J. C. Pinckney. "They imposed their will on us, and we knew we'd have to score at least four touchdowns to win.''
When Glenelg defensive end J.T. Komsa ripped the ball out of the hands of Douglass running back Emmanuel Smith and ran 65 yards for a touchdown with 2:56 left in the first quarter to put the Gladiators ahead 14-6, Pinckney's assessment seemed right on the mark.
But Glenelg was shut out in the second and third quarters as Douglass' defense slowed down the running game. A 27-yard second-quarter touchdown pass was called back for a penalty, and a holding penalty stalled a third-quarter Glenelg drive. Meanwhile, Douglass scored 22 unanswered points in those two quarters.
Komsa, whose touchdown steal might have made him a hero had Glenelg's defense been more effective, played his final game for the Gladiators, but was upbeat about the season overall.
Despite playing defense, he scored three touchdowns this season, including a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Howard and a blocked punt for a TD against Centennial. He plans to play Division III football next year.
"I'm pretty happy with what we did this season,'' he said. "We were predicted to go 1-9, but during our first scrimmage we played as a team and I knew then that we'd have a good year. We were kind of the underdogs against Douglass, but I wouldn't trade my teammates for any other.''
D (10-2) 6 14 8 12 - 40
G (9-3) 14 0 0 6 – 20
D: Harris 8 pass from Reynolds (run failed).
G: Crabill 3 run (kick good).
G: Komsa 65 fumble return (kick good).
D: Smith 8 run (run failed).
D: Harris 14 pass from Reynolds (Hinnant run).
D: Harris 3 pass from Reynolds (Harris pass from Reynolds).
G: Salandra 5 pass from Darden (kick failed)
D: Hinnant 86 kickoff return (pass failed).
D: Hinnant 11 interception return (pass failed).