THURMONT - -Dunbar's quest for a fourth consecutive Class 1A state championship came to a crashing end at Catoctin of Frederick County in Friday night's state semifinal.
With winds gusting up to 20 mph and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees, the Poets relied on their punishing running game against a Catoctin defense that bent but didn't break. In the end, the Cougars managed to control the clock and pulled out a 13-12 victory.
Catoctin improved to 13-0 and will play for its first state title against Joppatowne next Saturday at M&T; Bank Stadium.
"This team has battled back all year," Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said. "They feel this [loss], and I know they don't want to feel it again. So they are going to have to battle back again."
Nathan Ayers Jr., who entered the game with 2,119 rushing yards, led Dunbar with 166 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. Paul Barbour led Catoctin with 90 yards on 12 carries.
Trailing by one with 2:14 remaining in the game, the Poets (11-2) got the ball on their own 20-yard line with one timeout. However, Evan Pittman threw an interception with 30 seconds left, and the Poets' run ended.
"They had so many good teams in the past," Catoctin coach Doug Williams said of Dunbar. "We have been waiting a long time for this. This is awesome."
Catoctin opened the scoring with a 12-play, 82-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Dylan May to Landon Routzahn with 1:51 left in the first quarter. Dunbar, however, then settled down and began to take control.
The Poets tied the score on the first play of the second quarter on a 15-yard run by Ayers. Travon Garrett then gave Dunbar the lead, 12-6, with a 54-yard interception return with 3:56 left in the half. May made up for his mistake on the ensuing possession by running 19 yards to give the Cougars the lead, which they never relinquished.
"This is best feeling I've had in a long time," May said. "We worked so hard in the offseason; all of that work paid off."
D 0 12 0 0 12
C 6 7 0 0 13
C-Routzahn 5 pass from May (kick failed)
D-Ayers 15 run (run failed)
D-Garrett 54 interception (run failed)
C-May 19 run (May kick)