STEVENSVILLE — Zionnez Spencer couldn't be stopped. He wouldn't be denied, either.
Escaping a potential sack with no time on the clock during the game's final play, the Dunbar junior found a sliding Ivan Lomax with a pass just a foot off the ground for a touchdown. It lifted Dunbar to a thrilling 24-21 victory Friday and set off a wild celebration.
Dunbar, which had not led at any point in the game, stormed off the sideline and into the end zone while Kent Island's players fell to the ground, too stunned to move.
"I was inches from being down … inches," Zionezz said while trying to regain his breath after the game. "I was just determined to make a play, and thankfully so were my teammates."
The Buccaneers pinned their hopes on being able to stop Spencer from running the ball effectively, thereby forcing him into passing situations where Kent Island could drop additional defensive backs to defend.
It almost worked. The Buccaneers were just two seconds from victory when Spencer was given one final chance.
Spencer was 19 of 43 for the game, throwing for 324 yards, including seven completions of at least 25 yards. And despite being sacked five times for minus-41 yards, Zionezz still managed to run for 65 yards on 19 carries.
With the win, the Poets (10-3) advance to next Saturday's Class 2A state final with a chance to win a state-record 10th title. Kent Island finishes 10-3, having lost in the semifinal game for a third time in four years.
The effort ruined a career game for Kent Island back Stone Boone, who ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. Yet it will likely be a decision not to kick that will haunt the Buccaneers.
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The Poets twice stopped Kent Island on four tries inside the 5-yard line, but the stop of Buccaneers running back Zach Goodrich for no gain on fourth-and-3 from the Dunbar 4-yard-line with 9:03 left to play changed the game. It was 21-12 at that point and a Kent Island score, especially a touchdown, would have likely clinched a victory.
Instead, Kent Island coach Bryon Sofinowski elected to run a play, and the momentum swung almost immediately.
"I should have kicked — we had been gaining five, six yards all night, so two yards should have been easy, but they made a play," said Sofinowski, who announced his resignation after 14 years to his team after the game.
Kent Island opened the game with 13-play, 65-yard drive resulting in Boone's first score from two yards out. The Buccaneers made it 14-0 when Boone went 15 yards, making a slick spin move five yards from the goalline with 5:05 left in the second quarter.
Zionezz answered with a 44-yard scoring strike to J'uan Campbell. The PAT failed but Dunbar was on the board. In the third quarter, Dunbar drew within 14-12 when Zionezz threw a 26-yard fade to Juane Robinson. Again, the PAT failed.