FORESTVILLE – After two straight losses to begin the season, the Gwynn Park High School football team appears to be back on track.
The Yellow Jackets (2-2) demolished an overmatched Central High School squad on Sept. 28, 65-0, at the old Forestville High School building, which is where the Falcons moved to this year while their building undergoes renovations.
It was Gwynn Park’s second straight blowout win following a 54-7 victory over two-time Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (MPSSAA) playoff participant Southern Garrett High School on Sept 20.
“We had our mind focused on the wrong places,” senior linebacker Jaylen Reynolds said about the team’s slow start. “We focused on our goals and mission this year and we’re hoping to carry it into the rest of the season.”
While Southern has had recent success, Central is on the other end of the spectrum. The Falcons have now lost 17 straight games, 15 of which have been shutouts. The Yellow Jackets led 37-0 at the end of the first quarter, and a running clock was used for the rest of the game.
It can be tough to keep players motivated when they dominate opponents, but Gwynn Park Head Coach Danny Hayes still had goals for his team. The Yellow Jackets missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and just the second time since 2008 last year and are intent on making sure that does not happen again. After the game, Hayes told his players they need to continue to get better and grow during the season.
“Just executing and getting things going, that’s what we wanted to work on today,” Hayes said. “Just executing and getting things right.”
The Yellow Jackets set the tone on the first drive, tackling Central quarterback Jerrell Daberry in the end zone for a safety after two high snaps drove the Falcons back from their 33-yard line to their own 1-yard line. Following the safety punt, Gwynn Park drove 57 yards in seven plays, with sophomore quarterback Elijah Mitchell finding senior Dominique Foxworth for an 11-yard touchdown to finish the drive.
It was a strong showing for Mitchell, who went 8 of 12 passing for 147 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half. He showed good touch on his deep ball, hitting sophomore Ryan Archey in stride for a 35-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Foxworth for a 45-yard touchdown in the final play of the second quarter.
“He’s developing great,” Hayes said. “He’s just a sophomore and has a lot to learn and he will learn it. He’s a captain of this team and leading really well.”
Up 44-0, Gwynn Park went with only run plays for the second half but still managed to score two more touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets defense harassed Central all afternoon as well, forcing four turnovers and scoring two defensive touchdowns. Senior Khalil Stone had both, returning a fumble for a score in the first quarter and picking off a pass and running it back in the final play of the game.
As the game got more out of hand, Hayes said he told his team to play like it was 0-0, try not to showboat and just take care of business on the field.
“It’s very hard for young kids not to (showboat),” Hayes said. “I just told my kids to stay professional.”
For Mitchell, continuing to play just came down to the team’s mantra of continuing the program’s legacy. Gwynn Park is already motivated after missing the playoffs last year, and the move down to 1A classification means the Yellow Jackets could have a chance to make a deep run.
“The history of this program is big,” Mitchell said. “It’s been a winning program since Coach Hayes has been here. All we’re trying to do is keep winning and not get big-headed.”