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Late touchdown lifts Douglass-PG football past Oakland Mills into 2A state final, 22-15

Baltimore Sun logoBaltimore Sun 11/27/2021 Brent Kennedy, Baltimore Sun
Frederick Douglass linebacker Darius Grimes (48) pursues Oakland Mills running back John Tatum (5) during Friday night's Class 2A state semifinal. © Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun Frederick Douglass linebacker Darius Grimes (48) pursues Oakland Mills running back John Tatum (5) during Friday night's Class 2A state semifinal.

In a Class 2A state football semifinal Friday night featuring a pair of powerful rushing attacks, it was the Frederick Douglass passing game that ultimately decided the outcome.

Trailing host Oakland Mills by a point in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, the Eagles from Prince George’s County put together a 16-play drive that was punctuated by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Trey Manley to Jaxon Sutton with 16 seconds left for the deciding points in a 22-15 victory.

Trailing host Oakland Mills by a point in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, the Eagles put together a 16-play drive that was punctuated by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Trey Manley to Jaxon Sutton (6) with 16 seconds left. © Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun Trailing host Oakland Mills by a point in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, the Eagles put together a 16-play drive that was punctuated by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Trey Manley to Jaxon Sutton (6) with 16 seconds left.

Of the three passes Manley completed on the evening, two came on the final drive and none was bigger than the throw into the right corner of the end zone that Sutton caught while tapping his foot just inside the chalk.

“We’ve got great athletes and great receivers, so we know we can throw the ball when we need to,” Manley said. “And me and [Jaxon] have been playing together since elementary school, so we’ve been throwing jump balls like that forever. When it gets down to a situation like that, I know I can trust him to make a play.”

Frederick Douglass (12-1) advances to face Milford Mill, a 14-7 winner over Huntingtown in the other 2A semifinal, for the state title next Friday at 4 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. It’s the first state championship game appearance since 2018 for the Eagles, who will be looking to win the crown for the second time in program history (the previous title coming in 2014).

Oakland Mills defensive back Kylik Perry (11) covers Frederick Douglass wide receiver Jaxon Sutton (6), who makes a go-ahead touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter during the Class 2A state semifinal Friday night. © Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun Oakland Mills defensive back Kylik Perry (11) covers Frederick Douglass wide receiver Jaxon Sutton (6), who makes a go-ahead touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter during the Class 2A state semifinal Friday night.

To reach the final, the Eagles had to deliver with their backs against the wall.

Starting on its own 27-yard line with 6:41 remaining, Douglass began with its patented ground game and then, as game script dictated, finished through the air. The team converted a pair of fourth downs along the way — benefiting from a timely pass interference call in the final minute to extend the drive — and showcased its versatility in the biggest moments.

After the Sutton touchdown catch, Douglass’ Vincent Oliver ran in the 2-point conversion to create the final seven-point margin of victory.

“The strength of our team this year is our running backs … but we always work on our passing game and our 2-minute offense,” Douglass coach Monty Sutton said. “We weren’t sure we were going to have to use it, but when we did we were ready for it.”

Oakland Mills (10-2) coach Tom Browne said that he was pleased with how his players stood tall all night against the Eagles, who had racked up nearly 500 yards rushing in a state quarterfinal victory over Kent Island. In the end, the Scorpions simply needed one more stop.

“Our goal was to take away the triple option and try to take them out of their comfort zone. We thought if we could do that, we would put them in a difficult situation and I thought that held true,” Browne said. “The irony then is that they beat us with the pass on a great play by that kid in the corner … we did everything right and just still came up a little short.

“Sometimes that’s how the game goes, unfortunately.”

In addition to the defensive effort, Browne also praised his team’s offense. Showcasing its own dynamic running game — powered by quarterback Kanye Holland alongside the running back trio of Aki Harvey, Shane King and John Tatum — Oakland Mills put together long methodical drives all evening.

No drive embodied the Scorpions’ grind-it-out style better than the game’s opening drive. Oakland Mills went just over 80 yards in 21 plays while taking over 10 minutes off the clock. Tatum capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on fourth down to make it 7-0 in favor of the Scorpions with 1:48 left in the first quarter.

“We said coming in that the best way to play defense against a team that can run the ball like they do is to keep our offense on the field,” Browne said. “We did a great job up front in the first half and that 10-minute drive in the first quarter kind of set the tone I thought.”

Douglass responded to the Scorpions’ long drive with one of its own. A 14-play series ended with Davin Brown running in a up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown with 6:08 to go in the opening half. The successful 2-point conversion from Oliver made it 8-7.

The score stayed that way going into halftime.

Douglass increased its advantage to 14-7 with 3:49 left in the third quarter when Manley kept it himself from 1-yard out and plunged into the end zone.

But Oakland Mills showed its resiliency by coming right back and answering. Another lengthy drive that started on its own 7-yard line was capped by a 30-yard run by Holland. Tatum then punched in the 2-point conversion to put the Scorpions back in front, 15-14, with 11:23 remaining in the game.

Oakland Mills had a golden opportunity to extend things even further after recovering the ensuing kickoff after a short kick that bounced around between several players. But things stalled out just inside the Douglass 30 and the Eagles took over to begin what ended up being the game-winning possession.

“Coach always tells us about the highs and lows and how important it is to keep our composure,” Manley said. “The season was on the line, so we all had to fight and do everything possible to get to that state championship.”

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