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Dunbar edges Churchill for 3A title in OT, 30-28 Culpepper sparks Poets to victory with touchdowns, tackle

COLLEGE PARK -- Before the start of last night's Dunbar-Churchill 3A state title game, a high-ranking Montgomery County official told a funny story to Ron Belinko, the president of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

"Paul Vance [Montgomery County's superintendent] invited Walter Amprey [Baltimore City's superintendent] to be his guest at this game," the official laughed. "Paul promised to let Walter hand out the runner-up trophy."

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But it was Vance handing out the runner-up trophy to Churchill after Ali Culpepper (69 yards, 21 carries) ran in his third touchdown and made a conversion-stopping tackle to secure a 30-28 overtime Dunbar victory -- the Poets' 10th straight win.

Last night, said coach Stanley Mitchell, was Poetic justice. "I guess this was the day that we finally proved that Baltimore City can play football with anybody in the state," said Mitchell, winner of last year's 2A crown at 12-0.

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In overtime, each team gets the ball on the 10, and has four downs to score. Dunbar (12-1) went first and Culpepper raced in virtually untouched on the first down of the series. Tommy Polley's conversion catch from Anthony Wiggins made it 30-22.

Churchill (12-1) answered as Ray Chen caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Landraous Dove (16 rushing yards, 104 yards passing, one TD) on the Bulldogs' first try to make it 30-28. But on Churchill's conversion attempt, Culpepper got in and wrapped up the legs of Dove, who got off a wobbly pass that fell incomplete.

No. 1 seed Churchill, ranked No. 5 by The Washington Post, had a 70-man roster compared to Dunbar's of 25, most of whom play both ways.

The Poets got fine defensive efforts from two-time All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year Polley, who recorded his 12th interception and his 16th sack, and Deon Johnson, Antar Sims-el, Doug Hampton and Jason Boyce, each with a sack.

But the biggest defensive play may have come from 5-foot-9, 160-pound safety Derry Williams with 2:58 left to tie the game at 22.

The Bulldogs had taken their first lead, 22-16, with 7:37 remaining after Leon Phillips scored from a yard out, and Dove ran in the conversion. But Williams pounced on a fumble that rolled free and returned it 72 yards.

"The fumble was the difference in the ball game," said 27-year coach Fred Shepherd. "I did a poor job of getting our lads ready. I don't think our lads were ready to win a championship."

Late in the first period, Polley's interception at the Churchill 24 set up Culpepper's 1-yard run for a 6-0 lead with 11:58 left in the second quarter. Wiggins' conversion run gave the Poets an 8-0 lead.

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Churchill, which limited the Poets to just 82 first-half yards, then drove 11 plays to the Dunbar 22, but was stopped in four downs. Another drive was also stopped, and a third ended with an interception by sophomore Jonathan Thomas to end a half in which the Poets held the Bulldogs to 57 yards.

Churchill tied the game just over a minute into the third quarter.

Later, five plays and two pass interference calls against Churchill put the Poets on the 1, where Culpepper ran it in, and a Wiggins-to-Polley conversion pass made it, 16-8, Dunbar with 5:48 left in the third period.

Churchill rebounded, however, as Dove found Dante Ware on a play that covered 57 yards. The ensuing pass failed and the Poets still led, 16-14.

"People still didn't respect us after we won the states last year," said Polley. "People thought we were a joke, but we came in here to prove we are not only a basketball school, but we can play some serious football at Dunbar."

Class 2A

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Linganore 23, Potomac 20: Jerit Siedor ran for 139 yards and scored three touchdowns and teammate Ben Morrow added 124 as Linganore (12-1) defeated Potomac (11-2).

Class 1A

Cambridge-South Dorchester 14, Southern-Garrett 12: Tyquon Murry rushed 18 times for 110 yards and a touchdown, and Cambridge-South Dorchester (12-1) stopped the potential game-tying two-point conversion with 1:22 left to win its first title since 1979.


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