SPRINGDALE – On third down on the 16-yard line late in the third quarter, Charles H. Flowers High School quarterback Julius Duvall knew a play needed to be made.
After scoring a touchdown on their previous drive, the senior wanted to give his defense more time to rest before coming back out on the field.
He snapped the ball and waited three seconds in the pocket before sprinting into the middle of the field.
Once he had enough yards for the first down, all the coaches on the Jaguars sideline screamed for Duvall to slide.
Instead, he flew forward before ultimately sliding on the 37-yard line. Duvall came up from the slide limping after hurting his ankle on the play.
“When it is on the line, Duvall is going to make a play, and that’s what he is all about,” Head Coach Dameon Powell said, smiling when talking about his quarterback. “I love the young boy, but he’s just got to protect himself a little more because as a coach, we need him for the next down.”
“I do (want to slide), but we are going to work on it this week; we are going to get it right this week,” Duvall said, confirming his ankle was doing well postgame.
Duvall’s run exemplified his star performance. While the rest of the Jaguars offense struggled, it was the senior’s playmaking abilities that lead to the game’s only touchdown.
Combined by a shutout performance by their defense, Flowers earned a crucial 6-0 win over Suitland in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A South regional semifinals on Nov. 9.
Duvall’s game-high 87 yards rushing and 62 passing yards was enough offense for No. 2 Flowers (10-0), who expected a high defensive performance by the third-seeded Rams (8-2). In their regular season meeting on Oct. 19, Flowers squeaked out a 14-7 win despite Duvall throwing two interceptions.
Flowers’ defense imposed their will early as linebacker sophomore Wayne Matthews dove forward for an interception in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
The Jaguars continued to pressure quarterback Damien Partee, sacking him three times, allowing only 28 passing yards and adding a second interception midway through the fourth quarter.
“We had the mentality coming into today’s game to play lights out defense,” Matthews said. “Suitland is a hard team, but you have to come out to play, and we have planning to play them all week we just came out to play.”
Meanwhile, Suitland’s defense sacked Duvall twice, made Flowers turn the ball over on downs three times in the first half and collected a loose fumble early in the third quarter. The turnover looked to give the Rams offense perfect field position to break the deadlock.
However, two plays after the fumble recovery, a bad snap at the 50-yard line sailed over Partee and fell into the hands of the Flowers defense. Duvall and the offense took advantage, going on a methodical six-play, 25-yard drive for the quarterback’s one-yard touchdown run.
“Our defense did great; (Flowers) scored one time in 48 minutes,” Partee said. “They did great, but we got to score more than zero points because if we score, we win. Our defense played them two times, and they could only score 20 points; I cannot ask for a better defense.”
With less than two minutes remaining and after the Rams defense forced Flowers to punt, the Suitland quarterback threw four straight incompletions, killing a final chance to give Suitland an upset victory.
Partee shouldered must of the blame after the game for the offensive performance, admitting to committing “a lot of mistakes.”
“This was a learning experience for the guys coming back next year and for the guys going to college,” Partee said. “You got to keep your composure because you only get one shot and you got to treat it like you get only one shot every year. You got to work hard and stay committed because if not, this is how your season is going to end.”
The win sets up a highly-anticipated match-up for the regional title at Dr. Henry Wise, Jr. High School on Nov. 16.
Both teams have proven to be the best teams in the county over the past two seasons with the Jaguars’ two undefeated regular season runs and the Pumas winning four straight state titles. Now, they will square off in a battle for the county, and possibly state, supremacy.
“(The seeding) only bother me because I would like to play in front of our fans at home,” Powell said. “But, hey, we knew we had to play that team, one way or the other.”