BRANDYWINE – The Suitland Rams and Gwynn Park Yellowjackets, each headed to the MPSSAA state playoffs next week, met last Friday night to give the fans one last regular season thriller.
With the playoffs around the corner, both teams were looking to make a statement. Suitland and Gwynn Park did just that as both sides battled to the final seconds of the game. In the end, Gwynn Park had the final say as the Yellowjackets defeated Suitland, 26-19, to finish the season at 8-1.
The game started off with both teams turning the ball over with fumbles. With 3:53 left in the first quarter, Gwynn Park forced a fumble on Suitland’s 2-yard line. Senior linebacker Ryan Clemons picked up the ball in the endzone for the game’s first score.
“We shut down the running game,” Clemons said. “We wanted to force them into the pass. We had a few flaws, but we made adjustments in the second half that brought us through.”
Down but not out, Suitland responded with a rushing touchdown by senior running back Antwan Squire with 1:39 left in the quarter.
Later, on the last drive of the first half with six seconds to go, Suitland put the ball in the hands of Squire, who busted into the endzone for the second time in the first half. Suitland regained the momentum as the Rams scored 12 unanswered points and went into halftime up 12-6.
But Gwynn Park was not to be denied at home as the ‘Jackets drove down the field to start the third quarter. Clemons, who is also a running back, ran in for a 4-yard score to tie the game at 12 and put his team back in the game.
“Playing both sides of the ball is not an easy thing to do,” said Clemons, who had a touchdown on offense and defense. “Under Coach (Danny) Hayes’ staff, he works us hard in practice and gets us conditioned. That just pushes me for the game. It’s better for me because I’m not as tired as usual.”
Toward the end of the third quarter, Suitland quarterback Marquis Perry made a costly decision that turned into points for Gwynn Park. Deep in his own territory, Perry threw an interception to Gwynn Park strong safety Terrell Lindsey, who returned the pick for six points.
Down in the fourth, Suitland did not shy away from the challenge. With 7:20 left in the game, Suitland’s special teams unit made a play that changed the game.
Senior linebacker Anthony Childress lined up on special teams waiting for Gwynn Park to punt the ball away. At the snap, he charged the punter, put both hands up and blocked the punt into the endzone. His teammate, junior defensive end Robert McMillian, recovered the ball, and in a blink of an eye, tied the game up at 19.
Gwynn Park was not discouraged. The Yellowjackets got the ball back and drove it down the field. With 1:59 left in the final period, Kibwe Galloway capped off a great drive with 3-yard touchdown run to give his team the lead.
“The two linebackers, I just tucked my shoulders and went straight through, carried them with me right to the endzone," Galloway said. “I've got to chug for the yards. Anything that is in the way you got to move it out of the way.”
With less than two minutes to go, Perry had to do his best Tom Brady impersonation with the two-minute drill. Perry looked good going down the field, and with his team down seven points, avoided a sack and some tackles for a 17-yard pickup on fourth down to give his team one last chance.
Perry stepped back in the pocket and took a shot toward the endzone. The ball went over two defenders’ arms and into the hands of junior Christian Sloan for the potential game-tying touchdown, however Sloan dropped the ball with 11 seconds left in the game.
With one last shot, the next pass bounced off multiple players’ hands before falling into the arms of Gwynn Park safety Walter Nelson for an interception to end the game.
“We still need a lot of work right now, but we are going to the playoffs,” Gwynn Park Head Coach Danny Hayes said. “It’s a great team, and Suitland, they are very feisty.
“The bottom line is that we played a great team tonight. We just got some work to do. We are going to start tomorrow and getting the work done at nine in the morning, but the offense came through in the end, and that’s all we need.”
Suitland (8-2) travels to Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. in the first round of the 4A state playoffs next week, while Gwynn Park (8-1) will host Edmondson-Baltimore in the 3A bracket.