Fifth-ranked Douglass trailed for the first time this season. And in one game the Eagles allowed almost as many points as they had in their first 11 games combined. If there were any questions how Douglass would respond when challenged, however, its players made sure to give a resounding answer.
After falling behind on an early touchdown, Derron Hall returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown and the host Eagles sprung big play after big play to beat 10th-ranked C.H. Flowers, 45-30, in the Maryland 4A South Region final yesterday before an overflow crowd of 2,500 in Upper Marlboro.
Running backs Rico Greene and Jamaine McCain each rushed for more than 100 yards and combined for five touchdowns -- only one on a play shorter than 40 yards -- as the Eagles (12-0) won a second consecutive regional title. Douglass will play seventh-ranked Sherwood on Saturday in a Maryland 4A semifinal.
For all of the offensive fireworks -- and there were plenty -- perhaps the game's biggest play came on special teams. Flowers had scored on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead, but Douglass needed only a few seconds -- 16, to be exact -- to come back.
Hall fielded the kickoff toward the right side of the field, ran through a hole in the coverage and into the clear. It was the Eagles' fourth kickoff return for a touchdown this season, all by different players.
"It was a shock to us" to be trailing, said McCain, who finished with a season-high 162 yards on 13 carries. "That was a measuring stick. Once they took the lead, what can we do? We knew the game was not over, it was just the first quarter. That [return] changed the momentum."
"That kickoff return killed us," said Flowers running back Rapheal Johnson, who rushed for 244 yards on 29 carries. "After the first touchdown, I could see they were down. But that kickoff return hurt us real bad."
While Flowers had moved down the field with ease on its first possession, Douglass temporarily toughened on defense. And the Eagles' offense needed only a few snaps to start building a lead.
Quarterback Davon Gray threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zary Stewart. Following a punt, on the next play Greene burst 52 yards up the middle for his first score and a 20-7 lead.
After Antoine Cuff scored on a short run for Flowers to make it 20-14, McCain took a jet sweep to the right on the next play from scrimmage and scored on an 83-yard run. Douglass forced another punt and on the next play Greene scored on a 50-yard run up the middle.
Only 31/2 minutes into the second quarter, Douglass had run nine offensive plays, but four had resulted in touchdowns, and the Eagles led 32-14.
It was a most surprising game given that Douglass had won 12-0 in the teams' regular season meeting. The Eagles also were coming off a 13-0 victory over Suitland in which their offense did not score, and they had allowed 37 points all season.
"It felt a little odd, but our guys knew they had to play," Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney said. "Last week was a total meltdown. Suitland took it to us. I was on them all week that it can't happen again. They played today."