Though considered the favorite to win coming into the game, No. 11 Edmondson staggered its way through the first half of Saturday's Class 2A North regional football final in dire need of a spark.
An 80-yard kickoff return to open the second half by Dundalk provided the necessary wake-up call for the Red Storm.
After looking anemic on offense before halftime, Edmondson responded with 12 unanswered points, including junior Marcellus Pack's 42-yard interception return for a touchdown with 8:53 to play that gave the Red Storm a 12-6 win at Poly.
"It was kind of like a slap in the face," Edmondson coach Dante Jones said. "Maybe that was the kick we needed to get us going."
Edmondson (11-1) advances to next weekend's Class 2A state semifinals, where it will face Frederick Douglass of Prince George's County at a time and place to be determined. It will mark the second straight trip to the semifinals for the Red Storm, which a year ago lost to eventual state champion Middletown, 48-8.
"We have to take care of some unfinished business," Pack said. "We're not done yet."
Facing the upset-minded Owls (9-3), however, it was all Edmondson could do to simply get started.
The Red Storm managed just 29 yards of offense through their first five possessions, never making it within 30 yards of the end zone until the third quarter.
That opened the door for Dundalk, which took a 6-0 lead when junior Dalonte Jennings took the second-half kickoff at the 20, started up the middle, cut through a pair of blocks and broke free for an 80-yard touchdown return.
The Owls, however, couldn't build off the momentum, finishing the game with just 106 yards of total offense. Their inability to move the ball out from deep in their own end midway through the third led to Edmondson's tying score.
Two plays after starting on Dundalk's 31, the Red Storm tied the game when junior Eric Tate took the handoff, cut right behind a block and bolted down the right sideline for an 18-yard touchdown. Tate led the Red Storm with 12 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Edmondson then took the lead early in the fourth, when on a third-and-11, Pack stepped in front of quarterback Davon Ingram's floater into double coverage, then returned it 42 yards the other way untouched.
"It was about wearing them down," Jones said. "In the first half, we weren't successful, but sometimes you've just got to keep at it. We knew at some point they would break."
Junior Sayquan Norman finished with 52 yards on 16 carries to lead Dundalk, which also lost to Edmondson in last year's regional semifinals.
"We returned 10 starters from last year's team on offense and defense, and they knew what kind of game it was going to be," said Owls coach Sean Sandora, who never believed his team was a long shot. "There was no doubt in my mind this was going to be a close game."
Dundalk 0 0 6 0 -- 6
Edmondson 0 0 6 6 -- 12
D-Jennings 80 kickoff return (kick failed)
E-Tate 18 run (kick failed)
E-Pack 42 interception return (pass failed)