After each win this season, Riverdale Baptist running back Justin Baynes and a few of his teammates have taken the Crusaders’ offensive line out to dinner, paying for the big boys up front to eat. They usually go to Old Country Buffet, where there is unlimited food and Baynes can take advantage of coupons.
“It’s been hurting our pockets, really,” Baynes said. “Because 11 weeks we’ve had to take them out to eat.”
Taking his friends to the dinner table has been Baynes’s way to say thank you, and so he planned on doing it one more time Friday night. He scored one of the most memorable touchdowns of his football career just three minutes into the game — scooting down the left sideline and doing a Superman dive at the pylon.
Baynes rushed for 195 yards and a touchdown to lift the Crusaders to a 14-6 win over Perry Street Prep in the Capital Area Football Conference championship game in Upper Marlboro.
“We just went hard,” Riverdale Baptist senior offensive lineman Darius Ivey said. “He was doing amazing things. We were doing amazing things.
Baynes, who entered the night with more than 1,200 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns this season, scored his 15th on the Crusaders’ first possession, and Riverdale Baptist (11-0, 6-0 CAFC) looked to be cruising at that point. But the Crusaders and the Pride (7-4, 4-2) turned the ball over twice each in the first 12 minutes, and the game quickly turned into a defensive struggle.
After Perry Street Prep got on the board with a Morris Ray Jr. touchdown to make it 7-6 with 3:55 left in the first half, the Crusaders responded with their best drive of the night. It featured several impressive runs from Baynes and two completions from quarterback Amir Hall to tight end Jaison Young , the second of which went for a three-yard touchdown on a third-down call with just 28 seconds left before halftime.
The second half was a fight. Baynes was right in the middle of it. His best drive of the night came in the middle of the fourth quarter, when he had seven carries for 47 yards to set up a first and goal with less than five minutes to play. But Riverdale Baptist turned the ball over on downs — and then its defense had to stop the Pride twice in the final three minutes to escape. On the final night of the season, Baynes had an entire team to thank.
“I couldn’t do anything without my team or without my linemen,” Baynes said. “I’ve never been in a championship in my life. Doing it with my brothers in high school, last game? This group is the best group that I’ve been with.”