Dunbar (Balt.) 34,
No one could question the heart of Poolesville's football team after yesterday's Maryland 1A South Region final. But that heart simply failed to measure up to the talents of Dunbar (Balt.) senior running back Nathan Irby.
Irby, arguably the best player in Baltimore, rushed for 354 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries and returned a punt 47 yards for a score as Dunbar defeated the Falcons, 34-14, at Baltimore City College High School. The Poets have defeated Poolesville (11-1) in the region final two years in a row.
"Nathan Irby is an absolute animal," Poolesville Coach Larry Hurd said. "We have not seen a better football player in the last two years."
Dunbar (11-1) handed the Falcons their only loss last season, and Poolesville entered yesterday's game having made some adjustments in hopes of containing Irby.
"Whatever we worked on all week didn't work," Hurd said. "He ran all over us."
Dunbar's players held a significant size advantage over the Falcons, which was most evident at the line of scrimmage.
"I give [credit] to my offensive line," said Irby, who had seven carries of 20 yards or more. "They kept creating holes for me to run through."
Despite Irby's huge game, the Falcons put forth a gritty performance and rallied from a 20-0 deficit to make the score 20-14 after three quarters.
"The heart of my team is unbelievable," Hurd said. "We were outsized 70 pounds a man."
Poolesville cut into the Poets' lead by going to the air on its first possession of the second half. Sophomore quarterback Matt Ray connected with wideout Brandon Moore on a 35-yard strike before hitting Chris Kramek for a 13-yard touchdown that made the score 20-7.
The Falcons' defense forced the Poets to punt on their next possession, and Poolesville took over in Dunbar territory. After the Poets committed a roughing-the-passer penalty, Ray scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak to cut the deficit to six with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
That was as close as the Falcons got before Irby ensured the victory. One of his touchdown runs came late in the fourth quarter to help quell the comeback.
Ray said Poolesville will need to step up its play in order to overcome Dunbar if the two teams meet again next postseason.
"We're just going to have to bring everything," Ray said.