The opening kickoff sailed over Jamaine McCain's head, and he seemed in no hurry to catch it, content to let it bounce into the end zone for a touchback. But when the ball bounced straight into the air at the 5-yard line, the Douglass senior knew he better hurry to grab it.
After getting the ball, McCain turned a potential disaster into the play of the game. He turned around, burst through a wave of defenders before the 20-yard line and then had an easy path to a 95-yard touchdown that helped the fifth-ranked Eagles defeat Suitland, 13-0, in a Maryland 4A South Region semifinal before a standing-room-only crowd of 2,500 in Upper Marlboro.
In a defensive struggle, McCain's score provided the only points until the final two minutes. Derron Hall sealed the victory by intercepting a fourth-down pass and returning it 47 yards for a touchdown with 1 minute 43 seconds remaining.
"In the playoffs, that's what it is all about -- it's defensive stops," said Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney, whose team posted its fifth shutout. "Everybody loves to see guys score points, but in the playoffs if you can't play defense you're not going to win. We played defense today; Suitland did too. We had to score in some other facets."
Entering the game averaging 37.6 points, Douglass never got going offensively. The Eagles (11-0) finished with 60 yards of total offense and no gain of more than eight yards against a Suitland defense led by All-Met linebacker Navorro Bowman (12 tackles).
The Douglass defense also was up to the challenge. Suitland (7-4) had the ball in Douglass territory on its first four possessions of the second half -- including consecutive drives that started at the Eagles 25- and 33-yard lines after short punts -- but the defending Maryland 4A champions were unable to score.
"A kickoff return determining a first-round playoff game," said Bowman, who injured his shoulder in the teams' regular season game on Sept. 17 and missed much of the season. "That's unbelievable."
Douglass, which has yet to trail this season, advances to host 14th-ranked C.H. Flowers in Saturday's regional final.
"It was a scare," McCain said. "But we knew we had a good defense to stop them."