Catonsville's football team created a bit of school history Friday night and in the process ended an era in Baltimore coaching history.
In a clash of unbeaten teams, the No. 8 Comets used the powerhouse running game of DeAndre Lane and Julian Singletary to upset No. 5 Poly, 28-18, and earn their first-ever trip to the state semifinals.
Their victory also ended the career of Engineers coach Roger Wrenn who leaves the sidelines after 40 years of coaching in Baltimore City with a 285-114-2 record, but without the ultimate retirement gift the Engineers hoped to deliver — his first state championship.
The Comets celebrated their Class 4A North regional title before four busloads of Catonsville fans who braved the chill at Poly's Lumsden-Scott Stadium. They'll visit No. 3 Old Mill (12-0) next Friday at 7 in the state semifinals.
"This is the farthest we've ever been," Comets defensive end Julian Jones said. "I'm glad to have this team. When we graduate and when we all get together, we can say what a great team we had."
Wrenn gave the visiting Comets (13-0) plenty of praise for their line play, especially on the offensive side, where they opened hole after hole for Lane and Singletary, who gained a combined 287 yards and scored all four touchdowns.
"They just beat us inside physically," Wrenn said. "Our weakness is we're not real big, and I thought they exploited that very, very well. It's their personality to run the ball and run it and run it and run it and play that power until you stop it. We just had some difficulty doing it."
The Comets' offensive line of Travis Davis, Brandon Dixon, Nathan Reeves, Jon Reymann, Antoine Wright and Julian Jones paved the way from the start. Catonsville opened the game with an eight-play drive that culminated in Singletary's 15-yard touchdown run just three-and-a-half minutes in.
Eric Medinger kicked the first of four extra points, and his foot kept the Comets on top throughout a close game, because the Engineers did not have a field-goal kicker and all of their two-point conversion attempts failed.
The Engineers (11-1) answered the opening touchdown in less than five minutes when quarterback Darrell Milburn scored on a 25-yard run up the middle. The Comets stopped the conversion run attempt and kept the lead, 7-6
Behind Lane, the Comets chewed up another 53 yards on the ground, and he capped the next drive with a 24-yard scoring run. Medinger added the extra point for a 14-6 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter before Milburn hit Jordan Garrison with a 20-yard touchdown pass with 7:16 to go to pull within 21-18, but Lane, who finished with 281 yards on 45 carries, finished it off with his third touchdown, a 3-yard run untouched up the middle with 5:12 to go.
The Engineers came from behind to beat Dunbar and City this fall, but they couldn't quite pull out another set of last-second heroics to extend Wrenn's career.
The coach, who started as an assistant at City in 1972 and took over at Patterson in 1974 before moving to Poly in 2006, retired from teaching last year and announced before the season that he would step down as coach at the end of the Engineers' run.
"I guess it hasn't quite hit me yet," Wrenn said. "I feel pretty melancholy, kind of sweet and sad. This was one of my favorite teams I've ever coached right here and they have so much heart."
After the game, Wrenn greeted several former Patterson players in the crowd.
"I would not trade this time and this career for anything or any amount of money," he said. "It's been the most wonderful journey and the tribute that's paid to me is not gold and silver, it's just all the people everywhere I go that say, 'Hey, Coach Wrenn. Hey, Coach Wrenn' and it is everywhere."
Class 4A North championship
No. 8 Catonsville 28, No. 5 Poly 18
C 7 7 7 7 -- 28
P 6 0 6 6 -- 18
C—Singletary 15 run (Medinger kick)
P—Milburn 25 run (run failed)
C—Lane 24 run (Medinger kick)
P—Keize 57 pass from Milburne (run fails)
C—Lane 27 run (Medinger kick)
P—Garrison 20 pass from Milburn (pass failed)
C—Lane 3 run (Medinger kick)