A fumble, an interception and then another fumble and it seemed like sooner or later sixth-ranked Sherwood was going to be in a heap of trouble as its offense sputtered yesterday. The Warriors' defense, though, came through with several big stops and eventually standout quarterback Deontay Twyman got the offense going.
Twyman threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ben Everett in the second quarter and running back Brian Gunderman scored on a 12-yard run in the fourth quarter as visiting Sherwood held on to beat fifth-ranked and previously undefeated Douglass, 14-7, in a Maryland 4A semifinal before a standing-room-only crowd of 3,500 in Upper Marlboro.
The Warriors (12-1) advanced to Friday's Maryland 4A final, where they will play top-ranked Damascus in Baltimore. Damascus won the teams' regular season meeting, 25-7, on Oct. 21, but perhaps yesterday's victory will provide a boost. Because while Sherwood pranced through the season primarily because of an offense averaging 40.3 points, yesterday's victory was earned largely by the defense.
"Our defense was excellent today," said Twyman, who completed 13 of 17 passes for 153 yards. "They were just on point. We have a lot more confidence now because our defense is playing a lot better."
Linebackers George Mosle and Matt Svilar were repeatedly around the ball as Sherwood thwarted Douglass's rush-heavy offense. The Eagles (12-1) had their chances to avoid losing in the state semifinals for the second consecutive season. Sherwood fumbled on its first offensive play, had its second series end on an interception of a tipped pass and then fumbled again, giving Douglass excellent field position each time.
But the Eagles, who averaged 36.2 points entering the game, could not capitalize. One drive ended with a missed field goal. A penalty for an illegal shift negated a touchdown run and a fourth-down pass was caught out of the end zone. A drive just before halftime ended when, out of timeouts, Douglass quarterback Davon Gray scrambled inside the 5 but was tackled inbounds and the clock expired.
"We had plenty of chances to get in the end zone," Douglass running back Rico Greene said. "We could have won, we could have done a lot of things. But we just couldn't get to where we wanted to be."
After Nick Koutsos tackled Gray short of a first down to end another Douglass drive inside the Sherwood 30, the Warriors finally started moving. Twyman completed three consecutive passes to move the ball down the field. After a short run by Gunderman, Everett ran a post pattern and caught a pass from Twyman at the goal line to give Sherwood a 7-0 lead.
Douglass continued to struggle in the second half. Sherwood linebacker Matt Hough made consecutive tackles for loss and a penalty on the Douglass sideline for being on the field thwarted another drive that started in Sherwood territory.
The Douglass punter mishandled a snap to give the Warriors good field position and Sherwood padded its lead. An offside penalty on Douglass converted a third down and one play later Gunderman ran left for his 19th touchdown, virtually securing yet another trip to the state final for legendary coach Al Thomas, who guided Seneca Valley and Damascus to a combined seven Maryland championships before coming out of retirement last season to coach at Sherwood.
Douglass pulled within 14-7 on a one-yard run by Gray midway through the fourth quarter. But Twyman and Gunderman each converted third-down plays and Sherwood did not give up the ball until only 12 seconds remained.
"It's exciting," Thomas said. "I never would have thought it. I still think we're a year away. I think we'll be better next year."