The defending state Class 1A champs earned their ninth straight trip to the state semifinals and another 1A South regional crown with a 50-6 win over Surrattsville Saturday afternoon at Poly. They move on to face undefeated Overlea in next weekend's final four.
"Getting to the semifinals, you've got to keep the train moving, keep the engine going," Poets lineman Dariz Hill said. "You can't slack up. It's 100 percent, 24/7. Stick to the positive side, keep you eye on the goal."
The No. 6 Poets (10-2) scored on Jaquan Holt's 38-yard run less than three minutes into the game and ran their lead to 36-6 on Terrence William's 35-yard interception return with 3:45 left in the first half.
Quarterback William Crest threw touchdown passes of 32 yards to Aaron Haynes and 16 yarda to DeonTay McManus, and McManus returned a punt 47 yards for a touchdown against the overmatched Hornets (6-6) from Prince Georges County.
Surrattsville cut the lead to 14-6 early in the second quarter on running back Shaquille Guyton-Jackson's 4-yard run, but Dunbar clamped down after that, keeping Guyton-Jackson in check and smothering the receivers.
Coleman Blackston's 14-yard touchdown run to open the second half triggered a running clock, and Carlos Austin, the younger brother of former Poets star Tavon Austin, added a 17-yard touchdown run.
The Poets have won seven state championships and five in the last seven years. To senior Aaron Haynes, that's motivation enough.
"We want to go to M&T Bank [Stadium for the title game]," Haynes said. "It's easy to stay focused when we've got that one goal in our minds. Our coach tells us we're the only ones to ever win this region, so it's good having that expectation. We know we can come out here and we've got to win it. You never want to be the first to lose it."
The Poets have come a long way this fall, especially with the development of their sophomore quarterback Crest, who was 9-for-17 passing for 148 yards Saturday. A balanced running game that includes brothers Charles and Paki Brown, Holt and Lavar Highsmith opens the passing game for Crest and his top receivers, including McManus (three catches for 39 yards) and Haynes (two catches for 72 yards).
"We grew up," Poets coach Lawrence Smith said. "The line grew up. William has grown up now, so we're making the right reads. We're doing what we need to do."
The Poets lost only one game on the field this season, and the defense allowed only two opponents to reach double digits in points. They had to forfeit a game as punishment for a bench-clearing brawl during their season-opening 22-8 win over Dunbar (D.C.) at Morgan State. They fell to Poly 18-14 in a game that ended up deciding the Baltimore City Division I championship.
"We've gone through a lot this season, but we've come together as one," said Paki Brown, a junior running back who rushed nine times for 54 yards Saturday. "We found our identity. We learned from our mistakes, and we just want to get back on the same track and reach our goal, the state championship."
Class 1A South championship
No. 6 Dunbar 50, Surrattsville 6
S 0 6 0 0 — 6
D 14 24 8 6 — 50
D—Holt 38 run (Blackston run)
D—McManus 47 punt ret. (run failed)
S—Guyton-Jackson 4 run (kick failed)
D—Haynes 32 pass from Crest (Hawkins pass from Crest)
D—McManus 16 pass from Crest (run failed)
D—T.Williams 35 int. ret. (P.Brown run)
D—Blackston 14 run (P.Brown run)
D—Austin 17 run (pass failed)