Dunbar: Good and getting even better
When the state football championship games are played later this week, Dunbar will go into M&T Bank Stadium with the distinction of being the only area team to have improved its scoring and defensive numbers in the postseason.
The Poets averaged 42.3 points in 10 regular season games, while allowing 9.8 points ( 6.6 over the past nine). In postseason play, their production has increased by about a touchdown per game, at 48.9 points, while the defense has cut a point from the oppositions' total, to 8.7.
"Everyone looks at our skill players," said Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith after his team's 48-12 victory Saturday over Catoctin. "But it is our offensive and defensive lines that are the key. We have five guys [on each side of the ball] dedicated to doing what they have to do and they are controlling the game."
Also on Saturday, top-ranked and defending 2A state champion River Hill will face No. 4 Eastern Tech, as each put their 13-0 records on the line at 3:30 p.m. This game is a rematch of last season's thriller that River Hill won, 14-7.
No. 3 Dunbar (12-1) faces Allegany County's Fort Hill (11-1), which comes in with a strong reputation, in the 1A final at noon Sudnay. Dunbar is the two-time defending champion and looking to become only the second team in the metro area to win three straight titles.
If it does, it will join No. 6 Wilde Lake (2-1), which did it from from 1990 to 1992. The Wildecats are going for their sixth state title overall, this time in 3A competition against Charles County's Westlake (10-2).
So far, in games involving area teams, none of the games leading up to these finals have been close. The primary reason for that appears to be the potent offenses of each team, but the defenses should not be overlooked.
Of the four area teams, only Wilde Lake has allowed its opposition to score in double digits, giving up an average of 12.5 points during the regular season and continuing the trend in the postseason, allowing 15.0.
River Hill was the area's highest scoring team in the regular season, with a 46.4 points per game average, and it also had the stingiest defense, with six shutouts and a 2.8 points-per-game average. But in the postseason, the Hawks' scoring has been held down to 29.7 points in three playoff games, and its points allowed number has increased to 8.7.
River Hill's opponent Saturday, Eastern Tech has also seen its scoring numbers drop, from 41.5 a game to 31.3, while its defense has remained tight, allowing 5.8 points in the regular season and 6.0 in postseason.
Dunbar though, continues to be on the upswing. The question is: Can the Poets control the offensive and defensive lines for one more game and bring home its third straight 1A title?
Catoctin coach Doug Williams didn't seem to have much doubt after his team's 48-12 loss Saturday.
"All I can say is that Fort Hill better come prepared to play four quarters," he said. "Dunbar is the real deal."
Though Smith said going back to the championship game for a third time will be like "going home for us," there is no chance the coach will allow his team to take anything for granted. Saturday's game was just over when he gathered his players around him and bellowed:
"They [Fort Hill] want it [the championship]," he said, so all his players could hear. "They want it and they're going to bring it. Is it understood? IS . . IT . . UNDERSTOOD?"
The Poets, who played their semifinal game on the Poly football field, voiced their understanding and then did a group cheer before running to their bus for the ride back to Dunbar.
"There are a lot of us seniors on this team," said linebacker Horace Miller, one of 27 seniors. "We want to go out with a bang and leave it all on the field. We've been well prepared all season. ... It doesn't matter who is in the game, all it is is football. So long as we keep doing what we're told to do and what we do in practice we'll have success."