By Greg Schimmel
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 12:12 AM
BALTIMORE - As Devante Gray closed in on Middletown junior quarterback Michael Pritts on the last meaningful play of the Maryland 2A championship game Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium, the McDonough senior defensive end had one thing on his mind.
"I just realized that once I got to him," Gray said, "the game was over."
Gray's sack on fourth and 11 from the Middletown 42-yard line clinched McDonough's 21-14 win, and served as a fitting end to a game that the seventh-ranked Rams dominated for all but a startling 81-second stretch in the third quarter.
Gray caught three touchdown passes and led a Rams defense that allowed 107 total yards, giving McDonough its first state championship since 1990 and the first by a school from the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference since Westlake won the 3A title in 2008.
"We completed our mission," McDonough Coach Luke Ethington said. "We're just excited to come out on top."
McDonough (13-1) dominated early, as senior quarterback Aquil Michaux found Gray for touchdown passes of 47 and 26 yards on the Rams' first two drives to build an early 14-0 lead.
Gray caught a short pass on the first score, cutting between two Middletown defenders in the secondary on his way to the end zone 4 minutes 4 seconds into the game. He made an over-the-shoulder grab in stride in the middle of the field for the second touchdown with 1:51 left in the first quarter.
The Rams' defense may have been even more impressive in the first half, holding Middletown (12-2) to two first downs and six total yards.
Their sophisticated defensive fronts got constant pressure on Pritts, forcing the Knights to punt four times then run out the end of the half on their first five possessions.
The momentum swung after Gray's third touchdown early in the third quarter - a 15-yard pass from senior George Leonard - when McDonough fumbled twice in its own territory and Middletown scored on its next offensive play both times.
A 19-yard touchdown run by senior running back Sam Michels and a 32-yard touchdown pass from Pritts to senior Chris Pirrone cut the McDonough lead to 21-14 with 3:32 left in the third.
"We weren't going to panic," Michaux said. "We were just going to stay hungry and grind and play football."
McDonough stopped Middletown on a fourth and two at the McDonough 29 early in the fourth quarter, then ran a more than seven-minute drive that used up most of the clock.
Middletown's last chance ended with Gray's sack, and several Rams collapsed to the field in celebration after a final knee.
"This is the biggest game," Gray said. "We'll remember this for the rest of our lives."