Dunbar didn't take long to set the tone for Saturday's Class 1A football state championship.
In the first 3 minutes, the No. 6 Poets ran the ball six times for 58 yards, culminating in Coleman Blackston's 26-yard touchdown run, and they were well on their way to a 39-0 victory over New Town for their third straight state title at M&T Bank Stadium.
"It's amazing right now," Poets senior defensive end Marvin Gross said. "They were talking trash all week and in The Baltimore Sun and that just makes it that much better that we beat them. We felt disrespected all around. You can tell that they hadn't been here before, but the disrespect level was just too high. We had to come out and dominate and that's what we did."
The Poets (13-1) won their seventh state title since 2004 and their ninth overall in the third-most lopsided victory in state tournament history. The first-time state finalist Titans (11-3) could not counter Dunbar's size, especially on the offensive line, or a punishing defense that forced four turnovers.
"We were able to move the ball at certain points but weren't able to seal the deal," Titans coach Joe Holland said. "We had breakdowns within certain drives and we gave up big plays at the most inopportune times, and they capitalized, which is what great teams do."
Since falling to No. 4 Calvert Hall, 30-6, in the season opener, the Poets have shut out 10 opponents — one shy of the state single-season record — and allowed just 23 points. Dunbar, which moves up to Class 2A next year, held a Titans rushing attack averaging 265 yards per game to 122 and limited them to just 33 yards of total offense in the first half.
"Our defense has been tremendous all year," Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said. "I told coach [Michael] Carter, our defensive coordinator, in the beginning, that I felt this would be probably our best defense we ever had, because it's not about names. This defense was a complete defense."
In leading the offense, Blackston, a junior running back, gained as many yards — 128 on 18 carries — as the Titans had in total offense. Running behind right guard Dariz Hill, Blackston ran 17 times in the first half and scored the first two touchdowns.
"They kept feeding me, and I kept running behind my big boy," Blackston said of the 6-foot-3, 360-pound Hill. "We ran a lot of 44s right up [behind] Dariz. He gave me a lot of holes to cut off of, and it was real simple just to run behind him."
The Poets offensive line of Hill, Nicholas Bonaparte, Brandon Giles, Teon Ransom and Malik Jones plowed the way for a Dunbar running game that gained 229 yards.
"We do a lot of conditioning, so we can run the ball all day, 24-7, smash-mouth football," Hill said.
Holland said: "There definitely was a size advantage and over the course of the game, that does tend to wear on you."
Blackston added a second touchdown on a 2-yard romp for a 12-0 lead with 3:19 left before the half to cap a 64-yard drive in which he gained all but 1 yard.
On the sixth play of the Titans' next drive, Leland Lassiter intercepted a Shawn Magginson pass and quarterback William Crest took the Poets 60 yards in 45 seconds, scoring on a 13-yard pass to Wilbur Young. Joneil Faloon's extra point made it 19-0 at the half.
On the first drive of the second half, the Titans had their best chance to score, reaching the Dunbar 5-yard line, but a penalty for an illegal subsitution turned third-and-2 from the 5 into third-and-7 from the 10. Donte' Gross then fumbled on the run and Ransom recovered for the Poets.
The Poets couldn't convert that one, but they did score after two turnovers in the final 6 minutes, adding three touchdowns in less than 2 minutes.
JaQuan Holt's 6-yard scoring run and Paki Brown's conversion boosted the Dunbar lead to 27-0 with 6:21 to go. With 6 minutes left, Kyree Hawkins picked off Magginson and that led to a 9-yard Crest touchdown pass to Aaron Savage with 5:02 left. Seconds later, Ty'Chan Johnson recovered a fumble and raced 46 yards for a 39-0 Poets lead with 4:37 to go.
For New Town, Derrick Kittrell ran for 63 yards on 17 carries and Gross gained 38 yards on seven carries.
"I'm definitely proud of the season we had," Holland said of a Titans team that went 3-1 in the playoffs this fall after going 1-5 in their previous four playoff appearances.
"Of course we would love to have won the championship," Holland said, "but one game doesn't negate the kind of season we had as a team. I told my seniors I was proud to be in their service over the last few years and of the energy they put towards getting to the next level and also to my returning players, to remember the feeling today, so we can prepare ourselves better to play at this level next year."
NT 0 0 0 0 -- 00
D 6 13 0 20 -- 39
D—Blackston 26 run (run failed)
D—Blackston 2 run (pass failed)
D—Young 13 pass from Crest (Faloon kick)
D—Holt 6 run (Brown run)
D—Savage 9 pass from Crest (pass failed)
D—Johnson 46 fumble rec (pass failed)Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times