By the time the Douglass High School football players stood gasping for air after their third post-practice shuttle run Wednesday, dusk was handing the ball off to night, darkness growing quickly so you could barely read the numbers on their practice jerseys or see their breath in the freezing air.
Coach J.C. Pinkney had said three shuttles would do it today, so a few players inched toward their coach in anticipation of a quick post-practice speech and breakdown. Then, from the end of the sideline came a call from some Eagles’ players: “One more! One more, we need it!”
So the Eagles (8-2) ran again, a self-imposed, pre-playoff lesson in giving their all, finishing strong, and all the things they believe they didn’t do the last time they faced their first-round opponent and Maryland 2A South rival Gwynn Park (10-0). The two face off in the region semifinals Saturday in Brandywine in a rematch of a 40-28 Yellow Jackets’ overtime win in September.
That game saw Gwynn Park jump out to a 20-6 halftime lead.
“We came out flat,” senior defensive back and receiver Devonta High said Wednesday.
Then Douglass charged back to tie it early in the third and take a lead in the fourth, only to let Gwynn Park tie it on a miraculous scoring drive late.
“We didn’t finish,” senior linebacker Zuri Page said, helmet still on after practice despite the fact that teammates and coaches had long since left the field.
Douglass didn’t lose another game after that Gwynn Park loss, surviving just one close call — a muddy, sloppy 34-32 overtime win over Potomac — despite losing sophomore quarterback Devin Butler to injury for a few midseason games. Now, the 2012 state finalists are fixated on doing everything they think they need to do — like an extra shuttle at the end of a long, cold practice — to reverse the result against the Yellow Jackets, for whom the Douglass thriller.
“It’s all execution. It’s going to come down to executing [Saturday],” Page said. “One team’s going to do it, the other isn’t.”