In a matchup between two dominant high school football programs, the Harford Tech Cobras edged out the Kent Island Buccaneers, 22-21, for the Cobras first-ever Class 2A East Region football championship.
Both clubs entered the contest coming off blowout wins, fans anticipated a titanic struggle between the undefeated Cobras (12-0) and the equally impressive Bucs (9-3). For the first several minutes and the second half, they lived up to the billing. Both teams’ defenses slowed these explosive offenses to a crawl. The Cobras and the Bucs struggled to establish anything on the ground and had just as much trouble when they went to the pass.
At the 4:21 mark of the opening quarter, the Bucs finally broke through, when senior quarterback Trent Jackson delivered a high pass to receiver Sean Mooney, who made a great juggling catch over the defender and finished the play off with a touchdown, giving Kent Island an early 7-0 lead.
Harford Tech answered back minutes later with a big play of their own. With 2:40 left in the first, Cobras signal caller Ryan Hunt completed an intermediate pass to tailback Jalen Dangerfield, who cut back over the middle to the left side and sprinted all the way to the end zone to trim the lead to one after the PAT was missed.
Going forward, the Bucs started to take advantage of Harford Tech’s miscues, particularly their turnovers. First, they recovered a muffed Jeremiah Minter punt return and scored at the 7:14 mark of the second quarter on a Jackson to running back Dylan Finley touchdown connection, taking a 14-9 lead in the process.
The Cobras handed the ball right back in the ensuing possession, when Hunt tossed an interception as Mooney jumped the route and made the play. Seconds later, Jackson and the Bucs took advantage of a busted coverage, as he easily found receiver Tre Thomas and he ran unabated to the goalline to extend the lead to 21-9.
Despite the continued turnovers, the Cobras remained competitive, as their defense held the Bucs at bay. They actually started finding success on the ground, with Kyle Cicone exploding through holes in between the guards and Dangerfield evading tacklers. However, Dangerfield fumbled the ball deep in Kent Island territory with 2:41 left in the third, once again turning it over to the Bucs. That notwithstanding, the Cobras defense kept Kent Island off the board.
“In the first half we made some big plays,” Kent Island head coach Damian Ferragamo said. “We couldn’t dial up those big plays in the second half.”
At the 6:45 mark of the final quarter, Harford Tech finally caught a break. Hunt used his athleticism to evade the Bucs pass rush and throw the ball down field. The play was well defended, but the tipped ball fell into the hands of wideout Laday Cooper who finished the play off with a touchdown to cut the lead to five, waking the Harford Tech section of the crowd up.
Hunt and the Cobras offense were not done making big plays. On their penultimate offensive drive, the sophomore converted a huge fourth down late in the game on a QB sneak to keep the drive alive. A few plays later, Hunt found Jordan Bright on the left sideline and the receiver used his speed to give the Cobras a 22-21 lead. The two-point conversion was no good.
“[Hunt] grew up tonight and became a man,” Harford Tech head coach Tim Palmer said. “Tonight he got to see the difference between regular season varsity football and playing big time high school football and he really grew up tonight.”
The Bucs had a good chance to win the game when Jackson connected on two first down passes, including a big play to tight end JC Getz. A couple plays later, Jackson was strip sacked, ultimately sealing the game for the Cobras.
Harford Tech now moves on to the state semifinals next week. The Cobras will host Gwynn Park on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Reach Randy McRoberts on twitter. @aegissports