ANNAPOLIS – Trailing 27-7 in the third quarter, Potomac High School quarterback Dominque Anthony dropped back to pass and looked for his favorite target, Corey Dyches, down the left sideline. As Anthony’s pass drifted toward the Maryland commit, it fluttered, and Middletown High School safety Cole Porter jumped in front of it for an interception.
It was Porter’s second interception of the game and Anthony’s fourth of the night. In the biggest game of the season, Anthony and the Wolverines made too many mistakes, committing four turnovers in a 34-15 loss to Middletown in the Maryland Public School Scholastic Athletic Association (MPSSAA) Class 2A State Championship game on Dec. 7.
“I just feel bad for my guys,” Wolverines Head Coach Ronnie Crump said. “They worked so hard in the offseason. They knew they we’re going to be here. To get this far and not play as well as we should have is disappointing.”
Potomac (12-2) was making its first state championship game appearance since 2005, getting there with a dynamic offense and a senior-laden defense. However, both sides struggled in the biggest stage at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The win was the Knights (12-2) fourth state championship and first since they won three in a row since 2013. Middletown Head Coach Collin Delauter was a senior on the 2011 championship team.
“They just had a no-quit attitude all year long,” Delauter said. “I’m just so proud of these guys and their determination and leadership. It’s fun to be around these guys.”
The Wolverines had the speed to give Middletown trouble if they got into open space but couldn’t execute consistently. After marching to Middletown’s 18-yard line on their first drive, Potomac came up empty when Anthony’s pass bounced off a receiver in the end zone on fourth-and-9.
As would often happen, when the Wolverines made a mistake, the Knights capitalized. Facing a second-and-6 from their 35-yard line, senior quarterback Reese Poffenbarger rolled to his right and took the defense with him. That left Jalen Huskey wide open, and Poffenbarger hit him in stride for a 65-yard touchdown.
Poffenbarger took advantage of busted coverages all night, with all four of his touchdown passes going for 30 yards or more. After his heroics last week against Elkton put Middletown into the state championship, Poffenbarger shined again, completing 19 of 26 passes for 318 yards.
“He made a lot of off-schedule plays,” Crump said of Poffenbarger. “And those are the kind you can’t really account for in the game. No matter how much you practice, you can’t account for a kid making plays like that.”
When Potomac was not struggling to contain Poffenbarger, it struggled with a talented group of receivers, led by 6-foot-5 senior Brian Walker. He scored the Knights second touchdown, a 50-yard bomb to extend the lead to 13-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
Things continued to spiral for the Wolverines on the next possession. After hitting Anthony James for a 23-yard gain, Anthony’s next pass was tipped and intercepted by Huskey, who returned the ball to Potomac’s 30-yard line. Four plays later, Poffenbarger threw a screen to Matthew Mancini, who did the rest for a 12-yard touchdown and a 20-0 lead.
The Wolverines answered back quickly, though, as Daemon Dawkins caught a short pass and ran the rest of the way for a 67-yard touchdown. Potomac’s defense held pat on Middletown’s next drive when the Knights moved into the red zone; then, its offense got to Middletown’s 15-yard line after a 62-yard catch-and-run by Dyches. But the Wolverines came up empty again, as Huskey jumped a pass for his second interception of the game.
The mistakes continued in the second half. Anthony found James for 35 yards to begin the half, but a late throw on the next play was jumped and intercepted by Porter. Three plays later, Porter caught a pass from Poffenbarger and scampered up the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown. Senior linebacker Gregory Washington picked off Poffenbarger on Middletown’s next drive, only for Anthony to answer with an interception of his own.
Anthony finished 16 of 30 for 335 yards passing and a rushing touchdown, but his four interceptions were almost as many as the six he had thrown all year coming into this game.
It was a tough way to end an outstanding season for Anthony and Potomac’s 21 other seniors, some of whom were on varsity all four years. However, it may take a long time for some of them to get over coming up short in the final game of their high school career.
“We lost,” Dyches said. “What else is there to think? We lost. That’s it.”