— Edmondson 26
BALTIMORE — Gaven Parker heard the chatter as he wandered the turf during pregame Friday night.
“Before the game, it’s funny, one of their coaches was talking to their players,” Cambridge-South Dorchester High’s head football coach said. “They’re like, ‘Dive, toss, counter. Dive, toss, counter. That’s all they got.’”
Sometimes that’s enough.
Malik Ennals’ 17-yard touchdown run around left end with just over three minutes remaining, capped an 11-play, 72-yard bread-and-butter march that chewed almost six minutes of clock and sealed a 36-26 Vikings’ victory over fourth-seeded Edmondson-Westside in a Class 1A state quarterfinal at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute’s Lumsden-Scott Stadium.
Fifth-seeded Cambridge-SD (10-2) will likely play at top-seeded Dunbar (11-1) either Friday night or Saturday in a 1A state semifinal — the Vikings’ first state semifinal appearance since 2014.
“One of my assistant coaches said it was probably our drive of the season. And it probably was,” said Parker after Cambridge-SD’s first road playoff win since a 31-30 overtime victory at Bohemia Manor in 1999, Doug Fleetwood’s final year as Vikings’ head coach. “Went right back to the bread and butter. When the kids execute it, it’s a pretty tough system to stop.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids and how they bounced back, and how they believed in the system,” added Parker of a game that had five lead changes. “And they finished the game.”
The Vikings also delivered one of their finest second-half defensive efforts of the season.
Edmondson (9-3) had 204 yards rushing in the first half, the bulk of that provided by senior running back Daniel Frink, who carried 11 times for 128 first-half yards that included touchdown runs of 20, 50 and 22 yards.
“I don’t know how many yards number one had in the first half, but jeez,” Parker said of Frink. “It wasn’t just him. We could not tackle. They were gashing us. Luckily we were able to keep pace (offensively) a little bit. But to come back in the second half and to finally get that penetration, and to finally make those tackles. ...”
The Vikings held the Red Storm to just 48 rushing yards after halftime, and limited Frink to 33 yards on 10 carries. After yielding seven first downs in the first half, Cambridge-SD surrendered just four in the second half, three of those on Edmondson’s lone scoring drive after the break. The Red Storm also struggled on third down, converting just 3 of 11 opportunities for the game, including a 1-for-6 performance in the second half.
“Missed tackles, game planning,” Cambridge-SD defensive coordinator Al Waters said of the first half. “We thought something was going to work. It didn’t. So we made the adjustment at halftime and only gave up six points.
“Give a lot of credit to our inside linebacker Dillon Meekins,” Waters said. “He was sick all week. Still got sick on the sideline, rolled his ankle, and he fought through it the whole time, making all the adjustment calls. Basically a quarterback out there on defense and he played great.”
The Vikings produced a slew of other big defensive plays, including stopping Edmondson on three of its four two-point conversion attempts.
Dario Belizaire recovered a fumble when Edmondson mishandled the ball on a triple reverse attempt late in the first quarter, setting up James Frazier’s 22-yard field goal that pulled Cambridge-SD within 12-10 one minute into the second quarter.
Cambridge-SD defensive tackle Noah Presley intercepted Edmondson quarterback Michael Jones on third-and-goal at the Vikings’ 14-yard line with under four minutes left in the first half.
“He’s already told me he can cover slants now,” said a smiling Waters of Presley.
Leading 20-17 at halftime, Edmondson had a chance to widen its lead when Cambridge-SD fumbled the second-half kickoff and the Red Storm recovered on the Vikings’ 28. Two running plays pushed the ball to the 19, where on third-and-one Frink was stuffed for a 5-yard loss. Edmondson was then hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty, pushing the ball back to the Vikings’ 38, setting up a punt.
The Red Storm continued to maintain their 20-17 lead, but on their next possession Tonto Goode was tackled for a 4-yard loss on a fake-punt attempt, giving Cambridge-SD possession on Edmondson’s 21.
“I told them to stop looking for flags and excuses, and just make plays happen,” Waters said. “You can’t put the game in the refs’ hands. And plays happened. We gave up a couple of long runs in the first half, but again that was mis-tackling. They couldn’t drive on us, which was huge.”
On the play after Tonto was foiled on the fake punt, Viking quarterback John Henry (3 of 9, 45 yards) completed his first pass of the game, a 21-yard strike in the corner of the end zone to senior wide receiver Logan Middleton that gave Cambridge-SD a 23-20 lead with 4:41 remaining in the third quarter. It also gave Middleton the school single-season record for touchdown receptions at 11, breaking the previous mark held by Jake Coleman.
“I’ve been trying to chase this record for the past four years,” Middleton said. “To get it at a playoff game is an unbelievable feeling. I’m excited and honored to hold this record. But this record isn’t the end of it. The state championship is still the goal.”
It also remained the goal of Edmondson, which answered Middleton’s score with an eight-play, 50-yard scoring drive that ended with Jones (5 of 16, 67 yards) hitting Michael Polston with a 7-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal with 41 seconds left in the third quarter for a 26-23 Red Storm lead.
But Edmondson would not score again, and the Vikings began shifting to their bread and butter.
Starting on its next drive, Cambridge-SD’s running game began gouging the Red Storm. Camren Lake (10 carries, 92 yards), who did not have a first-half carry, gained 21 and 14 yards on consecutive counter runs. Henry then tossed to Khalik Beasley (13-81), who swept around right end, cut cross field and outraced everyone into the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown. Frazier missed the extra-point attempt, but the Vikings had a 29-26 lead that would be extended on their next possession.
Avery Nichols sacked Jones for a 5-yard loss that forced an Edmondson punt. The Vikings took over at their 28 and embarked on their game-clinching drive that began with 8:53 on the clock and ended with 3:06 remaining as Ennals got free around left end and down the sideline for his 17-yard touchdown run.
“Second half we gave it all we could and we got the job done,” Ennals said.
Frink’s 20-yard touchdown run with 9:14 left in the first quarter gave Edmondson a 6-0 lead. The Vikings stopped Derell Green’s two-point running attempt.
Cambridge-SD nosed in front at 7-6 when Tim Johnson was sprung for a 43-yard touchdown up the middle with 4:43 to go in the first quarter. Frazer added the point-after kick.
Edmondson needed one play from scrimmage to take a 12-7 lead as Frick scored on a 50-yard run, but Jones’ two-point passing attempt fell incomplete. Frazier’s field goal trimmed that lead to 12-10, but with 8:23 left in the first half, Frink scored on a 22-yard run and Steven Jones Jr. ran in the two-point conversion for a 20-10 Red Storm lead.
Again the Vikings responded, Beasley getting free around right end, blazing down the sideline and diving into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown run. Frazier’s extra point made it 20-17, where the score remained entering the break.
“That is a testament to the kids, a testament to the staff to keep faith, to keep grinding,” Parker said. “I told the kids before the game, ‘We’re prepared for this moment. We played a game on the turf versus Snow Hill. We were down 14-0 to Wi-Hi. We were down 14-3 to Havre de Grace (in the first round of the playoffs). Being down by three at half? Big deal, especially when we had the half we had.’
“We just finished,” Parker continued. “That’s the biggest thing. I think this is a testament to our program. We finish in the second half. We’re traditionally a slow starting team, but we take care of business.”