Parkdale 20, Damascus 13
Parkdale senior wide receiver Markus McFadden was the last of his jubilant teammates to leave the field yesterday. He strolled across the turf clutching the first game ball he had received.
He still was gripping the ball tightly with both hands, just as he had when he scored the winning touchdown with a little more than two minutes remaining to lift 10th-ranked Parkdale to a 20-13 victory over No. 20 Damascus in a Maryland 4A semifinal game in Riverdale.
McFadden's heroics -- in which he tiptoed down the sideline for the final 10 yards of a 29-yard scoring pass from junior quarterback Anthony Brown -- secured him the game ball as well as Parkdale's first appearance in the 4A championship game in 27 years.
The Panthers (10-1) will travel to Ravens Stadium in Baltimore to play the 4A final at 7 p.m. Friday against Sherwood (10-1). The Warriors advanced to their second state final in the past three seasons by eliminating Gaithersburg, 26-14, on Friday.
"This ball is something I'll always cherish because it was the ball used during what could go down as the greatest play in Parkdale history," said McFadden, who finished with two catches for 43 yards. "I think everyone here will remember this day as long as they live since it's been so long since Parkdale ever made it this far."
After squandering a 12-6 lead to fall behind 13-12 with 7 minutes 36 seconds remaining, Parkdale took what likely would be its final possession after recovering a fumble. After six straight running plays -- including Brown's successful sneak on fourth down -- the Panthers faced third and 13 from the Damascus 29.
First-year Parkdale coach Mike Rucker, who had called three passes all game, made perhaps his biggest decision this season: 900 X Pass.
The play called for McFadden to run across the middle of the field, and when he did, Brown delivered the ball to him in stride. McFadden turned upfield to get the first down before being pushed by two Damascus defenders. But McFadden was able to keep his balance -- barely -- and danced the final 10 yards before diving into the end zone.
Brown extended Parkdale's lead to 20-13 by successfully running for the two-point conversion.
"I just wanted for us to get the first down," Rucker said. "But Markus made a great play -- something he's been doing all season -- and turned it into a touchdown that won the game. It's unbelievable. But in a way it's not because no one thought we'd get this far, except us -- and now we're one game away from winning the championship."
Damascus (8-3), which had its three-game winning streak snapped and had not allowed an opponent to score 20 points all season, had its bid for a comeback end when McFadden intercepted a pass on fourth down to secure Parkdale's victory with 38 seconds left.
Parkdale took a 12-0 lead in the first quarter after senior running back Kevin Beverly (game-high 157 yards) scored his second touchdown. Damascus pulled to 12-6 at the half following senior tight end Gregg Voight's six-yard touchdown reception from junior quarterback Mike Moquin.