Third-ranked Gwynn Park had a few moments in a timeout to discuss the situation. Facing fourth and goal from the 2-yard line of a tied state championship game in the second overtime, Coach Danny Hayes made up his mind to try a potential game-winning field goal. But the Yellow Jackets' seniors kept coming to Hayes, wanting to change his mind.
Running back William Little pounded his chest and said, "Give me the ball." Phillip Taylor, the massive lineman, said, "I'll lead the way." And so Hayes decided to go for it.
With a power formation to the right, Little took a handoff in that direction and was hit at the line of scrimmage. But he kept moving forward and eventually barreled into the end zone for the game-winning score, lifting the Yellow Jackets to a 20-14 victory over Westminster in Saturday night's Maryland 3A title game before 7,000 at M&T Bank Stadium.
"I wanted to kick a field goal," Hayes said. "I was seconds away from kicking a field goal. I made a couple decisions there. William Little came up to me, then Phil Taylor insisted, 'Put it on me.' "
It was a thrilling finish to a mistake-filled game that saw both teams fail to capitalize on chances to win.
Gwynn Park (14-0) could have won at the end of regulation, but it dropped a pass in the end zone and failed to execute the snap on a short field goal try on the final play of regulation.
The Yellow Jackets dropped two potential touchdown passes on their series of the first overtime -- in high school, each team gets a series from the 10-yard line in each overtime period. But Westminster (12-2) missed a 21-yard field goal attempt on its ensuing series, forcing a second overtime.
On Westminster's series in the second overtime, wide receiver Ryan Payne caught a pass on first down in the right side of the end zone, but was ruled out of bounds. Television replays from a cable television broadcast showed Payne did have one foot inbounds on the play. Two plays later, on third down, Gwynn Park linebacker Phillip Higgins intercepted a pass, putting the Yellow Jackets in position to win.
Three runs put Gwynn Park at the 2, and the Yellow Jackets called timeout before deciding to go for the touchdown.
"I put it in the kids' hands to get it done," Hayes said. "William got hit by the first player, but he had the strength to get it in. That's what weightlifting is all about."
The first four quarters featured little offense and a few turnovers that led to scores. Two Gwynn Park fumbles led to one-yard touchdown runs by Westminster quarterback Kevin Clancy. Gwynn Park linebacker Adrian Moten intercepted a screen pass and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown.
Late in the third quarter, Moten recovered a fumble when a shotgun snap surprised Clancy and bounced off his face mask. Four plays later, Little scored on a one-yard run up the middle and it was 14-14.
"It should never have went to overtime, but we bounced back from that," Hayes said. "The kids have been keeping their heads up all year long."