Nothing, including potentially fatal mistakes, could stop the No. 14-ranked, Baltimore’s Dunbar Poets from advancing in the Maryland state playoffs. Dunbar overcame a sloppy slow start to beat the Forest Park Foresters, 32-12, in the Class 1A regional finals on Nov. 20.

Dunbar made several mistakes early, including a few untimely fumbles that placed Forest Park in perfect position for two touchdown scores within the first few minutes of the game. But as they’ve done all season long, Dunbar found ways to make big plays when it mattered most, closing out the game with 24 unanswered points.

“We were a little sloppy today,” Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said. ” this time of the year, you want to survive and move on.”

Dunbar survived by countering every mistake they made with a big play. When they gave up a touchdown following a blown punt snap, they bounced back on the very next play with a 79-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Estep to Travon Garrett. When they fell behind, 12-8, Dunbar’s Lavar Highsmith returned the ensuing kickoff for an 80-yard touchdown. Dunbar never looked back, finishing the game with two more unanswered touchdowns in the second half, including an 11-yard touchdown grab by star receiver DeonTay McManus.

Dunbar finished with only 171 total yards on offense, but that’s all they needed as their defensive unit shut down Forest Park for three quarters. Forest Park gave up six sacks, primarily due to dressing only six offensive linemen for the entire game due to injury. Forest Park’s offensive struggles grew worse when star receiver Chidi Flowers went down with a knee injury.

“They knew we couldn’t pass block well, and they took advantage of it,” Forest Park coach Damon Bomar said. “We couldn’t move it.”

Unfortunately for Forest Park (11-1 overall), their first loss of the season came in an elimination contest that will end their football action until next fall. Meanwhile, Dunbar (11-1 overall) advanced to the 1A State semifinals against Fort Hill on Nov. 27 at Poly Technical High School. Dunbar has faced and beaten Fort Hill twice in previous state championship games.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor