BALTIMORE — As Emmanuel Smith stood in the bowels of M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday and thought about all his Douglass football team had accomplished this season, the senior running back cracked a smile.
For more than two months the Eagles could do no wrong. Smith’s broken arm healed faster than expected and he joined his team in the middle of what became a nine-game winning streak that propelled them to Saturday’s Maryland 2A state final against Middletown.
“It’s been great that we made this run,” Smith said. “We’ve been through a whole bunch of negativity this season, but we were resilient and we made it almost to the top.”
Douglass’s run came up one win short Saturday, when Middletown dominated the Eagles in a 43-6 victory that gave the Knights their first state championship in school history.
But for a Douglass team that graduated nearly all of last season’s starters and began this year 2-2, the outcome against a clearly superior Middletown team in the state final won’t be what it remembers.
“We didn’t get the ultimate goal that we wanted, but I felt like we accomplished a lot,” Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney said. “We had a lot of odds [against us] this year, so for us to be standing here tonight is a major accomplishment.”
Middletown dominated the line of scrimmage, and Douglass had no answer for the Knights’ multi-faceted offense.
Junior running back Zach Welch rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns, and senior receiver Ben Lewis rushed for a touchdown and caught another.
Welch’s one-yard plunge in the first quarter gave Middletown an early 7-0 lead, and Lewis took a swing pass from senior quarterback Michael Pritts on the Knights’ next possession and scored a 58-yard touchdown that he punctuated with a punishing stiff arm.
“They had some great athletes and they had a scheme for our defense,” Douglass junior linebacker Matthew Paul said. “They just executed better than we did and we couldn’t get any stops.”
Douglass senior quarterback Taitor Reynolds found senior wide receiver Kyle Smith with a 28-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline with 32 seconds left in the first half to cut Middletown’s lead to 16-6, but the Eagles wouldn’t get any closer.
Lewis scored on a 53-yard run 1 minute 10 seconds into the second half, Welch added two more short touchdown runs, and after Pritts scored on a late one-yard run, the 35-point mercy rule went into effect and the clock ran for the last 10 minutes.
“We left no doubt and we wanted to leave no doubt,” Middletown Coach Kevin Lynott said. “It was the same old plays that we were doing, and these guys were motivated to go out there and finish.”