Southern-AA defeats Dunbar 4 Bulldogs' running game leads way to title shot 2A football

November 20, 1993|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

In 20 seasons, Southern of Anne Arundel coach Buck Gardner has the dubious distinction of being the only coach in the county to lose 100 games.

Now his team is only a victory away from becoming only the second team in the county to win a state championship.

The Bulldogs added a chapter in their storybook season last night, defeating visiting and No. 5 Dunbar, 43-24, in a Class 2A semifinal game.

Next weekend at Maryland's Byrd Stadium, Southern (11-1), ranked No. 3 and the fifth-seed, will face Damascus, a 21-20 winner over Cambridge in the other semifinal, in the championship.

The last team to win a state title from Anne Arundel County was Annapolis in 1984, the last time an Anne Arundel team had a reached a state final.

Until this season, the Bulldogs never had made an appearance in the state playoffs, and the most wins they had in a season was seven.

But this has been a different season for Southern.

In their first-ever playoff game last Saturday, the Bulldogs ground out a 14-12 victory over Potomac in the mud despite an offensive line that gave up 90 pounds per man.

Then last night against a Dunbar defensive unit that had allowed an opponent only 10 or more points twice, Southern's running attack netted 274 yards, mostly exploiting the Poets inside.

"We were feeling our way and found a place where we could run the ball," said Gardner, whose team won its seventh straight. "They cut our sweep off, and we went inside and we were successful."

The biggest contributor was senior Jason Poknis, who rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Jamar Mullen had 51 and Corey Contee 77.

In the second half, Southern scored 27 points, 11 more than the Poets had allowed in their previous four games.

"We knew they like to run the counter and trap with 44 [Poknis]," said Dunbar coach Stanley Mitchell. "We knew the key would be for our linemen to penetrate. You hate to point fingers, but that's where we lost it."

Southern's line of Austin Smith, Joe Kadjeski, Jason Hahn, Billy Andes and Troy O'Connor controlled the line of scrimmage, giving its backs room to run and time for quarterback Joe McCafferty to throw.

"We knew they had a strong defense," Poknis said. "But we ran our basic offense. When we run, run, and when they aren't expecting us to pass, pass."

The Bulldogs scored on their first two possessions of the second half. Their first drive went 61 yards in six plays, capped by a 35-yard scoring run by Poknis.

Dunbar came right back, getting a 55-yard scoring pass from Rodney Elliott to Sean Lipscomb, pulling the Poets to 22-18 with 5:27 remaining in the third.

But that would be the last highlight for the Poets, who were trying to become the first Baltimore City team to qualify for the state championship.

Bobby Procopio returned the ensuing kickoff to the Dunbar 34. Four plays later, Poknis went 5 yards for a score. A conversion pass increased the Bulldogs' lead to 30-18 with 3:33 left in the third quarter.

Late in third quarter, the Poets drove to the Bulldogs' 25, but turned the ball over on downs.

After Mullen completed a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 19-yard run up the middle, making the score 36-18 with 8:56 remaining in the game, the Southern faithful began thinking about College Park.

"What a great job. We're so proud of these guys," Gardner said. "It's a great accomplishment for these guys. They've played together and sacrificed, and this is where it pays off."

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