Davon Gray was nervous enough to mishandle three snaps from center in the first quarter, hardly the mark of a poised player in the regular season finale. The junior quarterback, however, was able to calm down and -- on a team noted for its aversion to passing -- completed three critical passes to lead Douglass to a 29-15 victory over host Friendly yesterday in Fort Washington, lifting the Eagles into the playoffs.
Needing a victory to continue its season, Douglass (8-2, 7-2 Prince George's 3A/2A) scored twice in the final five minutes to erase a one-point deficit and advance to the Maryland 3A East Region semifinals, where it will play at River Hill. No. 9 Gwynn Park will play Long Reach in the other semifinal, while Mount Hebron was knocked out of the playoffs by the Douglass victory.
With the loss Friendly (6-3, 6-2) will open the 2A South playoffs at Glenelg.
Friendly, which had won six straight, took a 15-14 lead on Justin Jones's second touchdown of the game, a two-yard run on fourth and goal with less than eight minutes left. But Gray completed a 30-yard pass to Matt Reid on third and six, and Jamaine McCain scored on a 20-yard run to put Douglass in front 22-15 with 41/2 minutes left. Gray finished 5 of 7 for 78 yards -- the most completions by a Douglass player in two seasons.
"We work on [pass plays] like crazy, we just hope we don't have to use them," Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney said. "Our guys knew everything was on the line." . . .
In four first-half drives against Suitland yesterday, Eleanor Roosevelt produced three turnovers, less than 100 yards of offense and zero points.
So in the second half, the host Raiders scrapped their complex "condensed spread" offense and turned matters over to running back Malcolm Banks and quarterback Derrick Williams. Twenty-four minutes later, Eleanor Roosevelt had three touchdowns, a 21-20 comeback win over No. 6 Suitland (9-1, 8-1) and a share of the Prince George's 4A title.
Eleanor Roosevelt (8-2, 8-1) trailed 13-0 early in the second half. But the Raiders rallied behind Banks and Williams, who accounted for all but five of the team's second-half yards.
"I don't know if we were trying to experience them or see what they had [in the first half], but we came out in the second half and said, 'Bump that, it's our time,' " Banks said.
The senior back gained 82 yards on nine second-half carries while also nabbing a crucial fumble recovery. Williams, meantime, threw for one second-half touchdown and rushed for two more, the last a two-yard plunge with less than five minutes to play that completed the comeback.
Warriors Clinch East
After missing the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs last fall, H.D. Woodson made an emphatic return to the postseason, clinching the East Division title with an 18-6 victory over visiting Ballou in Northeast.
The Warriors forced six turnovers -- returning one for a touchdown -- and its four running backs, led by senior Napoleon Sullivan and Antwan Stewart, generated enough offense for the victory. H.D. Woodson (5-4, 4-0) will face Coolidge next Saturday in the semifinals, while Ballou (6-5, 3-1) will face defending DCIAA champion Dunbar.
H.D. Woodson won the Turkey Bowl in 2002, but missed the playoffs last season after being forced to forfeit three conference victories for the use of an ineligible player.
"We still feel like we're the champs, because Dunbar didn't beat the champions to get their title," H.D. Woodson senior Barry Scott Jr. said.
Stewart gave the Warriors a 6-0 lead on a 15-yard touchdown run with 6 minutes 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter, and Scott made two field goals (26 and 29 yards) to make it 12-0 at halftime. Sophomore strong safety Sean Roeser recovered a Ballou fumble on the opening drive of the third quarter and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown and an 18-0 lead.
Ballou scored its lone touchdown on a 12-yard strike from Ronald Green to LeCount Fantroy in the fourth quarter -- the only points scored on Woodson in a DCIAA East game this fall.
Cadets Win Late
It didn't look good for St. John's with two minutes remaining last night, not with Gonzaga clinging to a one-point lead and driving down the field. But Cadets junior defensive back Stephon Hampton wasn't ready to concede.
Hampton stripped the ball from an Eagles running back, who had been wrapped up by two other Cadets but was still standing, and then raced 76 yards to the end zone with 1 minute 51 seconds remaining to lift St. John's to a thrilling 25-20 victory.
With the victory, St. John's (7-3, 5-2 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) earned the third seed in next week's playoffs and will face second-seeded DeMatha. Gonzaga (7-3, 4-3) gets top-ranked and undefeated Good Counsel. It was St. John's first win over the rival Eagles since 2000, and it came before an estimated crowd of 5,000 at Blair High.
"He just tried to juke me, and I saw the way he was holding the ball kind of funny," Hampton said, referring to the Gonzaga running back. "I just grabbed it and took it to the house."
Hampton's score came about four minutes after Gonzaga had taken a 20-19 lead thanks to a perfectly executed fake punt. Eagles punter Joey Orfini tossed a 39-yard pass to Tyler Fisher, who got to the Cadets 1-yard line, setting up Michael Wills's short touchdown run.
St. John's senior running back-linebacker Rico McCoy finished with 92 yards and two scores on 13 carries, and senior cornerback J.J. Johnson had four interceptions, including one with time expiring to clinch the win.
Staff writers Judith Evans and Tarik El-Bashir contributed to this report.