"Unfinished business" was the Dunbar football team's motto entering yesterday's Class 1A state title game with No. 7 Joppatowne, and the fourth-ranked Poets went out and got it done.
Nathan Irby rushed for 189 yards and his 35th touchdown of the year, and receiver Darron Edwards caught four passes for 157 yards and his 18th score of the season in a 16-14 victory for the Poets (13-1) that dethroned Joppatowne (11-3) at M&T; Bank Stadium.
Eric Carter, Antonio Salter and Derrick Session led Dunbar's defense with fumble recoveries, Kyle Johnson had a sack, and linemen Antonio Powell, Yusuf Dorman-El, Cecil Crowell, Alan Bosworth and John McCoy cleared the way for Irby as the Poets overcame a 6-0 halftime deficit in recording their 13th straight victory.
Dunbar earned its third state title, having won the 2A crown in 1994 and the 3A version in 1995.
Ben Eaton was an assistant to Stan Mitchell for the previous Dunbar finalists, including a runner-up finish in 1997. Now, the seventh-year head coach and his Poets have joined Damascus, Wilde Lake and Seneca Valley as the only programs to win championships in three classifications.
"This championship was for the program," said Eaton, whose team scored all of its points in the third quarter to avenge last year's 21-0 state semifinal loss. "With the disrespect we felt was being given Baltimore City football, we had a lot [of pressure] on our shoulders."
Irby's rushing total rose to 2,883 yards, eclipsing the state's single-season mark - for both public and private schools - previously set by Stephen Decatur's Ben Tate (2,871). Edwards' 1,267 receiving yards bettered the public school record of Boonsboro's Joe Himes (1,166).
Irby caught a 21-yard pass during a four-play, 81-yard drive that ended with his 29-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run. That gave Dunbar an 8-6 lead with 10:17 left in the third quarter.
Then it was time for Edwards, who entered the game as the state public school record holder for scoring receptions with 17.
Irby had stripped the ball from Joppatowne's Ezra Ancrum at Dunbar's 15-yard line after Ancrum's 40-yard reception.
On the next play, Marcus Taylor (9-for-16, 209 yards) found Edwards racing down the sideline. Edwards dove into the end zone to complete a play that covered 85 yards.
It was 16-6 with 1:17 left in the third quarter after Irby caught a two-point conversion pass from Taylor, who has 2,013 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns this season.
The Mariners led 6-0 at the 7:32 mark of the first quarter, ending a nine-play, 95-yard drive with a 9-yard run by Joe Ivory (161 rushing yards).
But Joppatowne would not score again until there was 10:24 to play, getting Ivory's 4-yard run that was set up by consecutive sprints by quarterback Anthony Preston (133 rushing yards) of 39 and 4 yards. Ivory also rushed for the two-point conversion.
"We came in with a chip on our shoulders," said Irby, who has 26 rushing touchdowns. "Our main focus was to get back and play Joppatowne, whether it was in the semifinals or state finals. We were sluggish in the first half, but we came out in the second half and left it all on the field."
Joppatowne 6 0 0 8 - 14
Dunbar 0 0 16 0 - 16
J-Ivory 9 run (run failed) D-Irby 29 run (Irby run) D-Edwards 85 pass from Taylor (Irby pass from Taylor) J-Ivory 4 run (Ivory run)