After losing in the state football final two years in a row, the Eastern Tech seniors decided they weren't about to let it happen again. On Saturday, their defense made sure it didn't.
The No. 11 Mavericks stopped Queen Anne's Jake Haley on fourth-and-1 with 1:44 left to preserve a 16-8 victory for their first state football championship in the Class 2A final at M&T Bank Stadium.
"It's indescribable. There's nothing I could put into words about how this feels," senior quarterback Zach Burkhardt said. "From being on the team last year and watching us lose it two years ago, there was no way I was going to let that feeling come to me again. We wanted to show people we can play and that we could come out on top."
Their final stand capped an all-around stellar defensive performance that gave the Lions fits on the ground and in the air. When the Lions got the ball back at their own 28-yard line with 3:08 left in the game, the Mavericks held tight. Haley got the ball on fourth-and-1 from the 19-yard line, but the Mavericks stacked him up and maintained possession for the rest of the game.
"The mind-set was to stop them from getting the first down. They burned their last timeout, so we figured we can just get the ball back, chew it up and just get out of here," Mavericks coach Marc Mesaros said
Eastern Tech's defense gave up very little, especially early on. The Lions couldn't manage a first down in the first quarter, and they gained only 47 yards of total offense in the first half.
The Mavericks (13-1) also had trouble moving the ball early against a tough Lions defensive line, but Burkhardt broke through for an 85-yard touchdown run in the first quarter thanks to downfield blocks from Chuky Iweh and Criszon Brown.
"I knew that all we needed was one big play," Burkhardt said. "It was a basic option play. They all crashed on Emmanuel [Gbor], and I wasn't going to stop until I ran into the end zone. Nothing was going to get in my way."
The Mavericks then got a safety, and Iweh ( eight carries, 91 yards) scored on a 9-yard run, carrying a bunch of Lions into the end zone with him midway through the third quarter. On that drive, the Mavericks went 67 yards in 5:37 thanks to the running of leading rusher Gbor (16 carries, 42 yards), Brown and Marquiese Bannister, as well as a 15-yard penalty on the Lions for a late hit on Burkhardt.
The Lions (13-1), making their first appearance in the state final, cut the lead to 16-8 late in the third quarter on Quinn Haley's 21-yard touchdown run and Tyler German's conversion pass to Jake Haley. ET 7 2 7 0 - 16QA 0 0 8 0 - 8
ET-Burkhardt 85 run (Kratochvil kick)
ET-Iweh 9 run (Kratochvil kick)
QA-Q.Haley 24 run (J.Haley pass from German)