Surrattsville High School in Clinton sits about six miles from Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, a 15-minute drive through neighborhoods of kids who, as Surrattsville Coach Robert Harris, Jr. put it “go to school together, play youth football together, go to the same churches, and go to the same barber shops.”
But when it comes time for high school football, the paths of those neighborhoods’ kids diverge. They become either Hornets or Yellow Jackets, and when it comes to football, that has meant a drastically different experience: Surrattsville has had one winning season and made the playoffs twice since 2001. In that same span, Gwynn Park’s had one losing season, and missed the playoffs twice.
But this year, the Hornets (6-0, 4-0 Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) seem to have closed the on-field gap with the Yellow Jackets (6-0, 4-0). The buzz around the neighbors’ annual matchup has a different tenor: the game actually matters.
“This is just another game where we have to go out an play our game. We can’t get caught up in hype,” Gwynn Park quarterback Jay Adams said. “Surrattsville, they’re a good team, but we’re a good team, too. They’re undefeated, and we are too. Of course, this is going to be a game that everyone’s going to look forward to seeing. But that doesn't change the game that much on the field.”
Their records may mirror one another, but Adams’s Yellow Jackets and the Hornets are still miles apart. Gwynn Park’s is a senior-heavy roster, a team of experienced players and long-time teammates hungry to turn one last chance into a state championship.
Surrattsville wants that state title, too, but also want to build respect and establish a culture of winning.
With junior standouts at quarterback and running back in Robert Harris III and Amaru Major, the area’s 10th-leading rusher with 1,109 yards, and a big, strong offensive line that will also return starters next year, the Hornets have time to prove Surrattsville football has sticking power. A win Saturay would go along way in doing so.
“We still have a long way to go,” Harris III said after his team’s 22-20 win over then-undefeated Forestville Monday, his team's first in-county test of the season. “I feel like we need to make another statement against Gwynn Park. I feel like we have a lot of momentum coming in, but they’ve proven they’re a great team. We’re all going to have to come here and execute, and we’re really going to have to fight.”