Quintin McCree had had enough. Eleven Gwynn Park possessions without a score was nothing the senior wide receiver had experienced this season.
So, before the Yellow Jackets took over with 3 minutes 30 seconds to play in their Maryland 3A South semifinal against Westlake, McCree went to quarterback Andrew Banks and told him, "Andrew, I'm so open, so just hit me. We've got to make a play already."
Two plays later, Banks lofted a perfect pass down the right sideline that hit McCree in stride for a 54-yard scoring pass. The tiebreaking score sent No. 4 Gwynn Park to a 14-7 victory before approximately 2,500 in Brandywine.
The Yellow Jackets (11-0), making their sixth consecutive playoff appearance, will host Lackey (9-2) Saturday at 1 p.m. in the regional championship game. Lackey has won the past two 3A South titles.
Until Banks found McCree, the high-powered Yellow Jackets offense had been stymied. They came in having outscored their opposition 384-52, 277-6 in the first halves of games. But the game was 7-7, and Gwynn Park had managed only 130 total yards, three turnovers and eight punts against the Wolverines before lightning struck.
Westlake (8-3), coming off two lackluster losses, found the emotion and confidence that carried it to eight straight victories to start the season.
On its second possession, the Wolverines faced a third and 20 from the Gwynn Park 28. Senior quarterback Mike Pegues found sophomore Kinard Harris on a post pattern over the middle. Harris, who had caught two passes all season, stretched out his right hand and cradled the ball into his chest while falling into the end zone. The extra point made it 7-0.
"We had emotion this week," Pegues said. "Sometimes, we played down to the level of some teams, but I don't think that happened today."
Gwynn Park, meantime, could not move the ball against Westlake. The Yellow Jackets had 33 yards of offense in the first half, and eight of its 20 carries before halftime were for zero or negative yardage.
Westlake wasn't doing much better, totaling 63 yards in the first half. When Troy Butler intercepted Pegues early in the second quarter and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, Gwynn Park stole Westlake's best chance to sustain momentum into the second half.
"The interception really hurt," Westlake Coach Dominic Zaccarelli said, "and the field position was hurting us all game long."
It got worse for Westlake in the second half. With the teams combining for 14 punts, the game became a battle of field position. Westlake's six second-half possessions started on average at its 13-yard line, while Gwynn Park began on average at the Westlake 46.
"We knew we'd get our chance," Gwynn Park Coach Danny Hayes said. "We knew we had field position, and we knew they couldn't move the ball. The biggest thing for us was patience."
Banks said the most challenging moment for him in the second half was seeing McCree a good five yards past the Westlake defender and calmly laying the ball into his arms.
"When he popped open, I just said, 'I've got to sit in there and make that throw,' " said Banks, who completed 5 of his final 6 passes for 103 yards after starting 1 for 10.