Snow Hill tops Dunbar in 1A semi


High Schools


SNOW HILL -- In a game many thought would be one of speed and athleticism, Snow Hill used power, ball control and a plain old smash-mouth approach to overcome defending 1A state champion Dunbar, 20-18, in last night's semifinal before a packed, partisan home crowd.

Auburn-bound running back Ben Tate rushed for a game-high 118 yards, and made his presence felt defensively with two first-quarter sacks; quarterback Raymond White managed the offense and scored on a 1-yard run; and tailback Byron Mason scored twice for the Eagles (12-1), who won their seventh straight game and ended a nine-game winning streak for the fifth-ranked Poets (10-3) of Baltimore.

The loss denied Dunbar (10-3) its fifth state title game berth since Baltimore City schools joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, and a shot at its fourth state title.

The Eagles, winners of state titles in 1980 and 1982, earned a shot at perennial power Allegany (13-0), which defeated Brunswick in last night's other semifinal. The state final is next Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Eagles could not claim victory, however, until Leron Powell stopped Dunbar quarterback Marcus Taylor out of bounds at their 3-yard line as time expired - a situation Dunbar coach Ben Eaton questioned. Taylor had cut the lead to two with an 11-yard scoring pass to Maurice Portee.

"I thought there was still two seconds left on the clock when Marcus got tackled, but then I looked up, and they let the two seconds tick off the clock," Eaton said. "But my hat's off to Snow Hill. They played a good, tough game."

Dunbar trailed 7-0 after the Eagles' Isaiah Thomas recovered a fumble at the Poets' 17-yard line, after which Mason ran for his first score from 1 yard away, and Wade Parks converted his first of two extra point kicks.

But the Poets, who had outscored their opponents 344-33 with four shutouts during their winning streak, responded quickly for a 12-7 lead 9:54 left in the first half.

First, Taylor (156 passing yards) found Tavon Austin for a 77-yard scoring pass; then Austin returned a 66-yard punt virtually untouched for another score. But the Poets failed to convert any of their three conversion runs - which factored into the final score.

"I think it shocked them that we were able to come out and establish the run the way we did in the first quarter, and the way that our defense was able to get to their quarterback," said Tate, who was joined by Mason (two sacks) and Marcus Pernell (one sack) in harassing Taylor.

After Austin's second score, the Eagles relied on ball control to limit Dunbar's possession, taking a 13-12 lead midway through the second quarter after Mason's 2-yard run ended a six-play, 60-yard drive.

Dunbar's deficit increased to the final margin with 6:07 left, after White's 1-yard run ended a 14-play, 59-yard drive.

Dunbar 0 12 0 6 - 18

Snow Hill 7 6 0 7 - 20

S-Mason 1 run (Parks kick) D-Austin 77 pass from Taylor (run failed) D-Austin 66 punt return (run failed) S-Mason 2 run (run failed) S-White 1 run (Parks kick) D-Portee 11 pass Taylor (run failed)

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