Gwynn Park beats Rams in 2A South
By JAMES A. McCRAY III
Through the first six minutes of the Class 2A South Region football semifinal game featuring the fourth-seeded Gwynn Park Yellow Jackets and the hosting and region top-seed McDonough Rams, McDonough head coach Luke Ethington watched as his team totaled four penalties, three of which came while McDonough was in possession of the ball.
Despite the numerous penalties, the Rams took a 7-0 lead after a Devone Boone two-yard touchdown plunge.
But as Ethington and the Rams were able to overcome penalties to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, it was not able to overcome penalties throughout the game, eventually falling to Gwynn Park of Prince George’s County, 18-7.
McDonough had 13 penalties, costing it 113 yards.
“It’s been a reoccurring theme for us all season long,” Ethington admitted of the penalties. “I just haven’t found an effective way to fix it. We’ve talked about being more accountable for our penalties, but we just had too many penalties at the wrong time. … I think it hurt us.”
A costly illegal forward pass penalty call against McDonough came with the Rams down 18-7 early in the second quarter and took a McDonough fumble return touchdown off of the board.
A Gwynn Park fumble was rolling out of bounds before a McDonough player was able to save the ball by throwing it back into the field of play, allowing Christian Cole to take it back 40 yards for the score, before the penalty.
Had the score held, it would have put McDonough within striking distance, making it a one-score game with more than 2 1/2 quarters of football to play.
Gwynn Park head coach Danny Hayes admitted that despite his team winning and moving on, this time of the year, limiting mistakes amounts to advancing a round further.
“I was impressed with McDonough,” Hayes said. “Those guys are fast, they are well-coached, but they just made more mistakes than we made. If we had made the mistakes that they made, [McDonough] would be playing next week.”
McDonough and head coach Luke Ethington finish the season with a 9-2 overall record. James Harrell caught five passes for 106 yards for the Rams.
“I told the boys coming off of the field, especially the seniors, that they can look back at this and call themselves champions,” Ethington said. “We were conference champions, but fell short of our postseason goals. I was proud to be out here with these young men.”
Gwynn Park cornerback Anthony Chesley had two interceptions, his second coming late in the fourth quarter and clinching the game.
With the game still in question and McDonough driving with less than three minutes remaining in the contest and down 18-7, Chesley intercepted a Boone pass to seal the victory.
“It’s kind of funny because through the [regular] season, I didn’t get a pick,” Chesley admitted. “Now, during playoff time, when it really matters, I got a pick, two picks in fact.”
Gwynn Park (10-1) forced three Boone interceptions and recovered a fumble in keeping the Rams off of the scoreboard after the first McDonough score with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“Basically, our team got together and said, ‘No more yards, no more touchdowns, give up nothing,’” Chesley said of the post-touchdown thoughts.
A Joe Hayman six-yard run put Gwynn Park’s first points of the night on the board.
Quarterback Jay Adams connected with Brennan Mayes for a 49-yard score, giving Gwynn Park a 12-7 lead, and Adams connected with Hayman from six yards out for the third Gwynn Park score of the quarter.
Each conversion attempt after a touchdown failed.
“It felt good because we came in here after practicing hard all week,” Hayman said of the win. “We came in as the underdog fourth seed, and we didn’t like that. We had to come out here and just ball out and we played our best game.”
Gwynn Park will play second-seeded Frederick Douglass, a Prince George’s County foe, in the region final. Douglass defeated third-seeded Patuxent on Saturday on a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.
“It’s going to be tougher,” Hayes said. “Every week is going to be tougher and tougher because everybody wants the same thing; everybody is out for the same goal. Whoever is making the most mistakes will be sitting at home the following week. That is what playoff ball is all about.”