With his team only eight yards from sealing a major victory against Fairmont Heights, Surrattsville Coach Cornell Wade decided to be bold. In practice the day before, his team had added a new play, and now, on a fourth down against a conference rival, he told quarterback Jyree Smiley to run it. Smiley snapped the ball and pitched it to running back Drew Anderson. Anderson sprinted to his right and then came to a sudden stop. Calmly, he looked upfield and tossed the ball into the end zone, where a wide-open Justin Bradley was waiting. Game over.
“I told Drew, ‘If you throw it up, I’m going to catch it,’ ” Bradley said. “ ‘Even if that ball is out of bounds, I’m going to go and catch it.’ ”
The 32-21 win solidified the second seed for the Hornets (5-5) in the Maryland 1A North playoffs and ended a five-game losing streak.
“People don’t understand that the heart it takes to be a 1A school in [Prince George’s] County is tremendous,” Wade said. “At the end of the day, my team fought through this season, and we’re heading to the playoffs and looking forward to it.”
The trick play was made more surprising by the fact that it came at the very end of what had been a hard-nosed, physical game. It was an afternoon filled with punishing hits and trash talk, as neither team wanted to take things easy in preparation for postseason play.
It was Surrattsville’s homecoming game, but the crowd was quiet for much of the first half as Fairmont Heights (3-7) held momentum and built a 21-12 lead before halftime. Fairmont Heights quarterback Andre Gilchrist ran all over the Hornets’ defense, at one point going head-to-head with Smiley, who plays both ways, near the end of a 30-yard run. The two quarterbacks met in a hard collision that left Smiley on his back and Gilchrist still on his feet moving forward.
As the Fairmont Heights sideline crowed, a shaken Smiley stood up slowly and got ready for the next down. Smiley finished with two rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown, ending up as the key to a second-half comeback.
“Our defensive coordinator always says, ‘You can feel hurt on Sundays,’ and that’s the mentality we had,” Smiley said. “We all kept fighting back.”
Smiley had help from a duo of running backs that picked up the tough yards when it mattered, especially in the fourth quarter after the Hornets took a 25-21 lead. Fullback Devante Stewart had six carries for 28 yards, and Anderson had 28 on seven touches. Christian Edelen had started the scoring for Surrattsville with an early interception return for a touchdown, but Fairmont Heights quickly responded and took control of the early going.
“At halftime, we talked about this being a test of them as young men. This is bigger than a football game; you have to respond to things in life sometimes,” Wade said. “So we came out and responded.”
After the game, Surrattsville was led off the field by its dance team and a sizable, jubilant band. The players found their families or friends, and people milled about, chatting and laughing. If Sundays are for nursing wounds, then Saturday night is for celebrating the wins that inflict them.