* Seneca Valley 33, Calvert 26
Calvert's dazzling trio of Jerome Brooks, Taros Harris and Dervon Wallace huddled together at midfield Friday night after the final seconds ticked off their 33-26 loss to Seneca Valley in a Maryland 3A semifinal.
Tears streaming, arms wrapped tightly around each other, they walked together to the far end zone for one last post-game talk. Watching them -- the departure of the three players who were the foundation of his team -- was as difficult for Coach Brad Criss as the final score.
"You can't replace the speed or the heart that we're losing this year with Taros and Jerome and Dervon," Criss said. "And if there's one thing good that came out of this, people got to see the type of athletes they are. And I tell you another thing, all of our seniors stepped up and really came on for us.
"This is tough, because I felt we were a state championship team, I really did. With the speed and the kids that we have, I knew that there were some good teams out there, but . . . I personally think that we just played the state champions tonight."
The Cavaliers lost to a team that is steeped in history. Seneca Valley, which will battle Linganore this week for the Maryland 3A crown, owns a record 11 state titles, its most recent coming in 1999. Seneca Valley (9-2) has never lost a state championship game.
"We were just hoping we could get the ball back one more time," said Wallace, who scored on a 64-yard screen pass with 1 minute 15 seconds remaining to narrow Seneca Valley's lead to seven. "The worst losses are the close ones. You lost by 21 or 28 and they beat you. Tonight, we just made too many mistakes."
Calvert (9-3) turned the ball over four times in the first half and fell behind 20-7 at the break. The Screaming Eagles converted two of the miscues into 13 points. The Cavaliers turned it on in the second half, scoring on their opening drive of the third quarter.
On fourth down and seven yards to go at the Seneca Valley 9-yard line, Harris rolled right and appeared to be smothered by four defenders, but somehow managed to push and wiggle his way through to the end zone.
"I just had to get in the end zone," Harris said. "We had to score there. The thing is, every time we scored they came right back at us and scored, too. But we never gave up hope."
Seneca Valley senior Justin Warren rushed for a game-high 157 yards and five touchdowns behind a big and powerful offensive line that gave him room whenever it was critical. Warren scored on runs of 17, 2, 4, 1 and 5 yards.
A 14-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Joe Procopio to Brooks closed the gap to 26-20 and ignited the home crowd of more than 2,000. The Cavaliers backed Seneca Valley into a 4th-and-8 play at its own 26-yard line on the ensuing drive, but then Eagles senior quarterback Brandon Chapman took over.
Chapman rolled right on fourth down and quickly found senior linebacker Colin Canine hanging onto his ankles for what looked to be a sack. Instead, Chapman kept his focus and threw a 12-yard strike to senior Reggie Frazier for a first down. Two plays later Warren scored his final touchdown of the night.
"They're such an electrifying team you're just consumed the whole game knowing that they could go all the way at any minute," Seneca Valley Coach Terry Changuris said. "That makes it critical for you to take advantage of your opportunities when you get them, and we were able to do that."
But even Wallace's 64-yard scoring screen pass on the next play from scrimmage did not come quickly enough. With just 1:15 left on the clock, all the Screaming Eagles needed to run out the clock was one first down, and they got it on an 8-yard run by Warren.
"Calvert was the best team we faced all year," Chapman said. "Their explosiveness . . . everyone on their team was fast. And [Wallace] and [Harris], those two guys were just crazy good. We had to earn this win, that's for sure, and it took everything we had."