With four seconds remaining and Douglass in need of a score at the Patuxent 9-yard line during Saturday’s Maryland 2A South region semifinal, Paul Harris wasn’t surprised when his number was called. It’s the play that threw off the Douglass senior wide receiver.
“When Coach [J.C. Pinkney] said ‘Paul, go out for the field goal,’ I was kind of shocked because I thought we were going to go for the touchdown on a jump ball or something to me,” said Harris, whose team had not kicked an extra point all game. “Once he said that, though, I just blocked everything out, kept my head low and followed through.”
Harris calmly proceeded to kick a 26-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired, giving Douglass a thrilling 29-27 victory in Upper Marlboro. Harris acts as the team’s place kicker, and made field goals earlier this season, but rarely attempts them. He also finished with 168 receiving yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles (10-1), who will host Gwynn Park (10-1) in the 2A South region final next week.
Prior to Saturday’s contest, the Eagles had shut out six of their past seven opponents. But Patuxent (8-3) showed on the opening drive that it was up for the challenge, taking a 7-0 lead on a Rafiq Douglas 16-yard touchdown. Douglass responded with its own scoring drive, capped by a Kenneth Freeman one-yard run.
From there, the two teams jockeyed for momentum throughout the first half. A Panthers fumble on the ensuing drive led to Harris’s first touchdown of the day on a 20-yard pass from Devin Butler, putting Douglass up 12-7 at the start of the second quarter. At the 9-minutes-17-seconds mark, Patuxent went back up on a nine-yard run by Trey Lee (116 rushing yards). Three minutes later, Douglass stole back the advantage on a Devonte Williams run from one yard out.
After a scoreless third quarter, Douglas rumbled three yards into the end zone for another Patuxent score but a missed extra point kept the score knotted at 20.
Butler found Harris again for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Eagles back up 26-20, but with 8:42 left on the clock Patuxent went to work on its upset bid. On a grueling 15-play, 77-yard drive, the Panthers used tough runs and clutch catches to convert two fourth downs and eventually go up 27-26 on Douglas’s third touchdown of the game.
With just 1:12 remaining, the Eagles began their drive at their own 4-yard line. But the long field and high stakes proved no obstacle for Butler, who quickly moved Douglass into the red zone on three passes for 56 yards and 31 more yards on the ground. Butler’s final eight-yard rush out of bounds set up the decisive kick for Harris.
“That was the most amazing game I’ve been a part of and that’s a great team we beat,” Pinkney said. “We practice the two-minute drill twice a week and make sure it’s right, and at that point we felt confident in Paul stepping up for the field goal. We might not kick them much, but he’s been consistent in practice and all season, and he came through again for us.”