Saturday, December 07, 2013 9:51 AM
Photo by Daniel Kucin. Frederick Douglass’s Devin Butler faced defeat in his first season with the Eagles, but the freshman quaterback will use this experience to take his team to the next level next year.
Published on: Friday, December 07, 2012
By Daniel Kucin
One of the most dynamic wide receivers in Prince George’s County was held in check during the Class 2A State Final at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday.
Tennessee commit Paul Harris could not get anything going for the Eagles, catching zero passes all game. That led to the Eagles’ demise against Middletown, losing the state championship 30-12. Douglass faced Middletown last year and lost by 37 points.
“We double covered him (Harris) some, and we just got lucky,” Middletown assistant head coach Lorne Ridenour said. “Whenever we did double cover him, they tried to throw him the ball, and when we didn’t they tried to run the ball or throw the ball somewhere else. So we were fortunate, and we got the right coverage at the right time and the kids made plays.”
Coming into this game, Harris was the backbone of the Douglass offense, catching three passes for 129 yards with three touchdowns against Edmondson-Westside, and a security blanket for freshman quarterback Devin Butler.
Butler got pushed around against Middletown’s vaunted defense and was forced to flush the pocket numerous times, forcing hurried throws.
Middletown held an early lead in the first quarter from an 11-yard touchdown grab from Knight’s tight end Sean Wenner, but a failed extra point attempt followed, making it a 6-0 game.
At around the seventh minute of the first quarter, Butler threw an errant pass into double coverage. Middletown junior defensive back Jacob Price caught the interception.
The Knight’s senior running back Zach Welch was pounding Douglass’s defense to bits and slowly ground down the clock, rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown to keep his offense on the field longer and time of possession at the highest priority.
Middletown later kicked a 23-yard field goal on this scoring drive to go up 9-0, leaving much doubt of a comeback for Douglass.
“No matter when we play, where we play, it doesn’t matter who we play,” Welch said. “We step on that field, and we play Middletown football. And it is here and now ... we play for the present, we play for our family, and that’s what we do. We know we put in so much work that we knew that we were going to win this game, and we knew that could win no matter what.”
However, the Eagles did what they do best — and that is throwing the deep ball. With only two minutes left in the first half, Butler had time in the pocket and threw a deep bomb down the left sideline to senior wide receiver Demory Monroe for 46 yards to put them in the red zone.
The Knights’ defense tightened up, forcing a fourth-down play. Harris attempted a field goal with 32 seconds left in the half. Harris had a huge 26-yard, game-winning field goal against Patuxent in the South regional final, so pressure was nothing new to him. Despite his previous efforts, Harris booted a low kick that was blocked by Middletown’s Frankie Meighan and Cody Martin, who scooped up the fumble, slowly trotting towards the sidelines only to jet off 98 yards down the field in a strange play that left many questions. An inadvertent whistle was blown and the referees had a conference nullifying the huge return that held the Knights from scoring.
“We fully knew that was a live football. It was a huge emotional boost to have that touchdown and to have them take it away from a false whistle. … We wanted to make sure what happened,” Middletown head coach Kevin Lynott said. “They admitted that they made a mistake, and that’s OK, we moved on. ...We all make mistakes as coaches and players and referees, so we just had to move on.”
In the second half, Welch kept running all over the place and scored a key touchdown within the seventh minute of the third quarter.
On the first play of the ensuing possession, Butler hooked up with Monroe again for 59 yards on a deep touchdown grab to close the gap 16-6 after a failed two-point conversion.
Middletown answered back with an 18-yard reception by Bradley Rhinehart to pretty much seal the game at 23-6.
Douglass scored their only points in the third quarter trying desperately to come back with a late Butler touchdown scamper, but Middletown was well prepared and finished its season undefeated and defending its 2A state title.
“I see how it feels to lose now, and I don’t ever want to feel it again,” Butler said. “It’s a bad feeling crying when somebody else is cheering, so I’m just going to make adjustments for next year.”