STEVENSVILLE — It had taken a little over three quarters, but Kent Island High’s football team had finally caught and passed Frederick Douglass.
The Bucs wouldn’t catch the Eagles a second time though.
Five plays after Kasey Heath had crashed into the end zone to give Kent Island the lead, Douglass’ Vincent Oliver slipped through the middle and raced 83 yards with the winning touchdown Friday night, helping the Eagles to a 20-14 victory in a Class 2A state quarterfinal at wind-chilled Andy Schipul Stadium.
Seventh-seeded Douglass (11-1) advances to the state semifinals where they will play at No. 3 seed Oakland Mills (11-1). Top-seeded Huntingtown (10-1), which defeated Stephen Decatur 28-14 Friday, will host No. 4 Milford (11-1) in the other semifinal.
“There’s a reason they’re (11)-1,” Kent Island head coach Damian Ferragamo said of Douglass. “There’s a reason they’ve won multiple state championships. They’re a real good football team. And they’ve got fantastic skill players. They just had some big plays; guys that are faster than us.”
Perhaps the fastest was Oliver, who carried 22 times for 282 yards that included touchdown runs of 18, 81 and 83 yards. Douglass rushed for 506 yards — the most the Bucs had yielded all season — got a 9-carry, 124-yard performance from Mikkel Pittman, an 8-carry, 92-yard effort from quarterback Trey Manley, and had seven rushes for 20 or more yards.
But the Eagles committed four fumbles, losing the ball at the Bucs’ 10-, 20- and 27-yard lines.
“Usually when we turn the ball over that many times it’s really difficult to win,” Douglass head coach Monty Sutton said. “We’ve done it before, but in a game like this with a (Kent Island) team like this and a staff that’s as good as those guys, no, we really didn’t (think we could overcome the turnovers). We just had some big plays that really kind of helped us get over the edge.”
The biggest of those came after the second-seeded Buccaneers (11-1) had rallied from a 12-0 deficit to take a 14-12 lead after Heath (25 carries, 77 yards) powered in from four yards out and James Gardner drilled the extra point with just under 9 minutes remaining.
Douglass was flagged for holding on the ensuing kickoff, backing it up to its 9-yard line. Oliver ran for gains of five and three yards. Then on third-and-two, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior darted through a gap on a straight dive and bolted 83 yards untouched for an 18-14 lead with 7:24 remaining. Davin Brown swept left end with the two-point conversion for a 20-14 advantage.
“We try to maximize their ability,” Sutton said of his backfield. “They’re not real big, tough burly guys. They’re more quick, scat-back type of guys. It kind of helped us out.”
Douglass took a 6-0 lead with 7:54 left in the second quarter, when Oliver ran right and weaved 18 yards into the end zone. The Eagles fumbled on the two-point attempt.
That lead was stretched to 12-0 on the second play of the second half, when Oliver found space on the right side and blazed 81 yards for his second touchdown. The Eagles bobbled the ball on the two-point attempt and Kent Island recovered.
Its offense stymied — seven of the Bucs’ first eight possessions ended with punts, the other a missed 26-yard field goal by Gardner in the first quarter — Kent Island finally got on the scoreboard, when David Van Wie blocked a punt that Giuseppe Mellinger recovered in the end zone with 8:28 left in the third quarter. Gardner’s extra point made it 12-7.
Douglass looked ready to respond, driving from its 19 to the Bucs’ 20, where Pittman fumbled. The Bucs went three-an-out again. The Eagles took possession at their 25, watched Manley carry 37 yards around left end on the option, and pushed to the Bucs 24 before losing yet another fumble.
Kent Island capitalized this time, putting together a 12-play, 73-yard scoring march that ended with Heath bulling four yards into the end zone. Gardner’s PAT made it 14-12 with 8:57 remaining.
Then came Oliver’s 83-yard response.
“It kind of went the way we thought it was going to go,” Ferragamo said. “We knew we were going to struggle offensively early. Their defensive line is very good. So we were expecting some struggles and thinking we were going to wear them down eventually. The plan was working. We wore them down, got some good drives. Just didn’t make the plays at the end like we had to.”
Kent Island pieced together its second longest drive of the game, going from its 34 to the Eagles’ 29 in 13 plays. But on first down at the 29, Douglass recovered Heath’s fumble with 3:31 left.
Douglass went three-an-out on its next possession, and a short punt gave Kent Island the ball back at its 48 with 2:24 left.
On third-and-six, quarterback Matt Burnside, who completed 17 of 31 for 109 yards, wriggled his way downfield for an apparent first down. But the Bucs were flagged for a blindside block, setting up third and long while drawing the ire of Kent Island’s sideline.
“Had an unfortunate penalty at the end,” Ferragamo said. “But listen, there’s probably 200 plus plays in that game. I’m not going to look at that one play. I’ll never blame a game on one play.”
Burnside was dropped for an 8-yard loss by Micah Izzard on the third-down do-over. Kent Island tried a hook and ladder on fourth and long, as Burnside threw to Bryce Ravanbakhsh, who lateraled to Garrett Griebel. But Griebel was tackled short of the first down, returning the ball to the Eagles, who ran out the remaining 1:10.
“It was a tough one today,” Ferragamo said. “I’m actually dealing with it better than I thought I would. But like I told those guys, we’re going to be upset now, and tomorrow they’re going to star thinking about all the great things we did this season. All the times they spent with each other. This is something everyone’s got to go through. It’s just rough. I’m just so proud of these kids and what they’ve done and this run we’ve had.”