Joppatowne broke open last night's Class 1A East championship game at Havre de Grace with a 20-point fourth quarter. But it was a two-play sequence in the second quarter that changed everything.
Hakeem Hines appeared to score a touchdown for No. 12 Havre de Grace late in the second quarter. But a penalty wiped it out, and Dominic Harper of No. 10 Joppatowne got an interception on the next play and returned it for a 77-yard touchdown. That put the Mariners in front, and they never trailed in a 26-0 victory last night.
Joppatowne (9-3) advances to the Class 1A state semifinals next week. Due to using an ineligible player, the Mariners had to forfeit three victories this season - including a 20-0 win over Havre de Grace (11-1) - and they were fired up.
Harper made several key plays for Joppatowne, returning a second interception 44 yards for another touchdown in the fourth quarter. That came three plays after Epe Henriques' 7-yard touchdown run, which was set up by a 37-yard run by Harper.
But the first interception proved crucial. Hines had scored on a screen pass, but the officials erased it, calling a block in the back. Harper picked off Darin Washington's pass on the next play and ran it back for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead with 2:09 left in the half.
"That changed the momentum of the game," Harper said. "It brought life back into the defense and the offense."
Joppatowne's defense shut out a Havre de Grace offense that scored more than 30 points six times this season. It limited Hines, one of the top running backs in Harford County, to just 61 yards.
"I don't think we ever recovered from that [two-play sequence in the second quarter]," Havre de Grace coach Johnny Brooks said.