Outscoring its opponents by an average margin of 41 points this season, the No. 3 Dunbar football team hasn’t had to rely much on its defense in close games.
That changed in Saturday’s Class 2A/1A state championship game against formidable Patuxent. And it was senior lineman Anthony Campbell who made the biggest play.
Campbell intercepted Patuxent quarterback Evan Blouir’s pass and rumbled 87 yards for a score with 3:11 left, securing a 22-13 win at soggy Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis that helped Dunbar complete a perfect 13-0 season and defend last year’s title.
This is the first time in program history that the 12-time champion Poets have claimed back-to-back perfect seasons.
With the Panthers (11-3) facing a second-and-5 at the Dunbar 21-yard line, Campbell jumped in front of the intended receiver and took off. It was the third of four interceptions for the Poets, who shut out Patuxent for the final three quarters.
“That feels good, man, feel great to help my team pull out a win and be successful,” Campbell said. “I’m just proud of my teammates, proud of my guys. We came out here, did our thing and won our second state championship in a row.”
The Poets rolled to the title game, outscoring three playoff opponents by a whopping 158-7 margin. When adversity came — they trailed 13-0 in the first quarter Saturday — they proved up to the task. Senior quarterback Devin Roche, last year’s All-Metro Offensive Player of the Year, had no doubt.
“Throughout the season, it was all about finishing what we started,” he said. “Going back to an [earlier] question, what kept us in the game and kept us from not breaking? It was all the hard work that we put in that nobody really else saw and knowing nobody else is working as hard as you — that’s what keeps you going.”
The first half started gloomy for the Poets but ended on a stunningly high note as they took a 14-13 lead into the break.
On the third play of Patuxent’s opening possession less than two minutes into the game, Blouir gave the Panthers the lead with a 44-yard touchdown run.
After Patuxent made it 13-0 with 3:05 left in the first quarter on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Blouir to Evan Jones, Dunbar turned the tide with one big play.
With the Poets facing second-and-15 at their own 14, Roche connected with Tony Hart III on a 52-yard bomb that put the ball on the Patuxent 34 with 7:25 left in the half. Five plays later, Hart made it 13-6 when he took an inside handoff and scored from 7 yards.
Patuxent seemed certain to take the lead into halftime when it had the Poets pinned at their own 17 with 21 seconds left and no timeouts. But two personal foul penalties against the Panthers helped the Poets get to the Patuxent 38 with eight seconds left, and Roche connected with Antonio Lyde in the end zone as time expired. Lyde ran in the ensuing 2-point conversion to send the fired up Poets into the locker room with a 14-13 advantage.
In the second half, the Dunbar defense limited Patuxent to three first downs and ended four series with interceptions by Shantron Monroe, Hart, Campbell and Tristen Kenan. Hart caught three passes for 72 yards, Lyde had three catches for 55 yards and a score and Roche had 159 total yards and a passing touchdown. Senior defensive lineman Josh Fedd finished with three sacks.
With the win, Dunbar 15-year coach Lawrence Smith, now 169-24 overall, becomes the third MPSSAA coach with eight state titles. His 49 playoff wins are the most by any coach.
“Our offense sputtered a little today and we got scored on quickly, but the defense came to play after that,” he said. “We shut it down. For the longest time, we were up by just one point, so it was amazing the way the defense settled in and did what they had to do to keep us ahead until we could find a way to find another touchdown to seal this great game.”
Class 2A/1A state final
Dunbar 22, Patuxent 13
P — Blouir 44 run (McDermott kick)
P — Standa 6 pass from Blouir (kick failed)
D — Hart 7 run (kick failed)
D — Lyde 38 pass Roche (Lyde run)
D — Campbell 87 INT (Hart from Lyde)