Dunbar has a solid resume' to fall back on when it comes to winning. Unfortunately for the Poets, they met someone Friday with a track record just as good.
In playing Mansfield (Mass.) High, the No. 6 Poets were up against the owners of six Massachusetts Division 2 state titles.
Dunbar rallied from a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter to take a lead, only to lose to Mansfield on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left, 29-26.
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"We put ourselves in that position," said Poets coach Lawrence Smith. "We made too many mistakes. We fought back, but we came up short. That happens sometimes.
Trailing 21-6 with 5:55 left in the third quarter, the Poets responded by going on an 11-play, 70-yard drive to draw closer. After a 21-yard run by Coleman Blackston took the ball down to the Mansfield 19, the Poets used an 8-yard run by Blackston and an 11-yard run by quarterback William Crest to cut the Mansfield lead to 21-12 with 1:32 left in the quarter.
After holding the Hornets to five plays on their next drive, Dunbar took over at its own 40 early in the fourth quarter. After a run by Crest lost 2 yards, the Poets responded in a big way. Crest dropped back and found Tychar Johnson at the Mansfield 40. Johnson split the safeties and did the rest, running untouched down the field for a 62-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 21-20 with 10:59 left in the game.
The Poets responded again on their next drive. After pinning the Hornets back to their 4-yard line, Mansfield punted. The Poets got the ball at the Mansfield 22, and needed seven plays to take the lead. The Poets capped the drive with a 5-yard run by Crest on fourth-and-5 to take a 26-21 lead with 7:12 left in the game.
After holding Mansfield on their next possession, the Poets were unable to get a first down on their next possession. They punted the ball away, giving the Hornets a first-and-10 on their own 20 with 1:20 left. It took the Hornets just six plays to scoring the winning touchdown, when Hornets quarterback Kyle Wisniewski found receiver Mike Hershman open on a 29-yard pass with 17 seconds remaining.
A Dunbar Hail Mary fell just short as the final horn sounded.
"We fought back," Smith said, "but we didn't get the little things done. Those are the things that win games for you."
"Give Mansfield credit," Blackston said. "In all the years I've been playing football, I've never been in a game like that one. They held their composure and they got it done."
Mansfield (Mass.) 29, No. 6 Dunbar 26
M 0 14 7 8 – 29
D 0 6 6 14 – 26
M – Wisniewski 1 run (Thompson kick)
D – Savage 5 run (kick blocked)
M – Hill 7 pass from Wisniewski (Thompson kick)
M – Wisniewski 14 run (Thompson kick)
D – Crest 11 run (run failed)
D – Miller 62 pass from Crest (Blackston run)
D – Crest 5 run (pass failed)
M – Herschman 29 pass from Wisniewski (Wisniewski run)