“That’s where he lost his tooth!” Douglass wide receiver Paul Harris said excitedly as he nudged his sheepish teammate afterward. “Smile!”
The crucial second-quarter fumble at the Douglass 2-yard line was one of three turnovers the Eagles forced Saturday, and turned out to be Gwynn Park’s last real chance to overcome an early two-touchdown deficit.
Freshman quarterback Devin Butler rushed for two touchdowns, Harris returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a score, and Paul led a dominant defensive effort as Douglass beat rival Gwynn Park, 28-6, in the Maryland 2A South region championship in Upper Marlboro.
The Eagles (11-1) advance to the state tournament for the second straight season and third time in four years, and will face 2A North champion Edmondson in a state semifinal next week.
“We always aim high,” Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney said. “We won enough games to get in, and now it’s time to make our mark on the tournament and hopefully come home with the big trophy.”
Harris, a Tennessee recruit, said he’d received taunts via text message in the week leading up to Saturday’s game, and he had been waiting for two months to avenge a subpar performance in the Eagles’ 39-16 loss to Gwynn Park (10-2) in September, their only defeat.
He wasted no time making an impact Saturday, taking the opening kickoff 85 yards to the end zone after making a simple cut through a massive hole in the Yellow Jackets’ kick coverage, setting the tone for the entire afternoon in the first 12 seconds of the game.
“I was on my game,” Harris said. “I just wanted to come out and show everybody I was going to be on it today.”
After a Gwynn Park three-and-out, Douglass senior Devonte Williams broke a 56-yard run down to the Gwynn Park goal line, and Paul plunged in from one yard out to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead after less than four minutes.
In the second quarter, after Paul’s forced fumble, Douglass stopped Gwynn Park for a 12-yard loss on a fake punt attempt on fourth down from its own 14, and Butler scored his first touchdown on a two-yard quarterback keeper on the next play to give the Eagles’ a 22-0 lead before halftime.
“We just made a ton of mistakes,” Gwynn Park Coach Danny Hayes said.
Butler added an eight-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter, and only a late one-yard touchdown run by Gwynn Park running back Marc Bronson prevented a shutout.
“It was a rude awakening for us the first time we played them,” Paul said. “It was really big for us to get to see them again. We couldn’t miss that opportunity.”