After almost self-destructing with five turnovers on its first seven possessions, Laurel settled down long enough to do what it has done all season -- play with confidence.
Tailback Kevin Bailey scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give Laurel a dramatic 14-0 victory over Linganore of Frederick County in the Maryland Class A state football championship last night at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium.
Laurel made its first trip to the playoffs a memorable one, giving Prince George's County its first state title since 1983 and finishing with a school-best 12-1 record.
Coach Chuck Hickes said his team overcame all the early problems and never gave up.
"We played aggressive defense and since we knew they were going to pass a lot, we blitzed our linebackers often," Hickes said. "I was a little concerned about their no-huddle offense because they were gaining a lot of yardage. But the defense stopped them later."
Laurel's best drive of the game began after the defense, led by linemen David Weems and Randy Harris and two-way performer Bailey, stopped a drive at its 31.
The Spartans took over and quarterback Kevin Dukes, who was intercepted twice and fumbled, keyed the advance with a screen pass to Dan Johnson for 33 yards to the Lancers' 26.
Bailey (142 yards on 23 carries) finished the 69-yard drive, tightroping his way along the sideline for the final nine yards with 5:19 remaining in the game.
"The play was supposed to be an off-tackle play but it was clogged up inside and I cut to the outside and went for the flag," Bailey said.
Mark Thomas' conversion kick made it 7-0.
The Lancers (11-2), who netted 101 yards to Laurel's 313, did nothing on their final possession, losing 16 yards and the ball in their own territory when Weems sacked Robbie Grob (seven of 22 for 56 yards, four interceptions) and knocked the ball loose with less than four minutes remaining.
Eric Martin recovered for Laurel at the Lancers 27.
"We rushed the passer hard, our defense got mad because we were being pushed around in the first half," Weems said.
"We put pressure on the center all game. We wanted him to rush his passes and make him pay each time he threw."
Laurel was in control now and Johnson (86 combined yards rushing and passing), Mark Winkey (63 yards on 14 carries) and Bailey alternated carries until the senior tailback scored from one yard out with eight seconds remaining in the game.
The Spartans forced five turnovers as Mike Simmons had two interceptions and Dukes and Greg Leffler picked off one pass each.
But Laurel had problems holding on to the ball as well. Good running by the three backs helped the Spartans reach the Lancers 17 and 8 before self-destructing with turnovers.
Linganore couldn't take advantage of its takeaways, either, netting only 29 yards rushing on 23 carries. The Lancers reached the Laurel 4, 30 and 20, but were stymied each time.Linganore (11-2) 0 0 0 0 0 Laurel (12-1) 0 0 0 14 14
La -- Bailey 9 run (Thomas kick)
La -- Bailey 1 run (Thomas kick)