BALTIMORE —— For about 30 minutes Saturday, Havre de Grace could taste a state championship.
But Dunbar sucked all the momentum from the Warriors' sideline with a 75-yard halfback pass, and the Poets rolled to a 22-12 win in the Class 1A state championship at M&T Bank Stadium.
Havre de Grace got off to a 12-0 halftime lead on a pair of short touchdown passes from junior quarterback Darin Washington to senior fullback Jordan Stallings.
But the air about the game changed after halftime, when Dunbar rallied for 22 unanswered points to win its seventh state championship—its fifth since 2004.
"I thought we'd put up more points in the first half, but we had some bad breaks at bad times," Warriors coach Johnny Brooks said.
The biggest break of all was losing senior wide receiver Dayshawn Bolling to a shoulder injury early in the first quarter. Bolling did not return.
"When he went down, we were trying to put as many points on the board as possible," Brooks said. "We knew they would come back in the second half."
The Warriors defense held Dunbar's talented senior tailback Epe Henriques to just three yards on five first-half carries. But the former Joppatowne back broke out for 115 yards on 15 carries in the second half.
"We had him shut down in the first half," Warriors defensive end Monty Werts said. "In the second half he just started being Epe, going off. And he's a heck of an athlete, we can't take anything from him."
It was Henriques' pass, though, that broke the Warriors.
On a 3rd and 10 play with 3:17 left in the third quarter, Henriques took the ball on a double-reverse and found Andre Davis, who had slipped through the secondary. Davis rumbled down the Warriors sideline for a 75-yard touchdown.
"It was the back-breaker for us," Brooks said. "They were struggling a bit, unable to score. They executed well, got the momentum going, and kind of swayed the game a little bit."
Henriques said Dunbar was simply looking for an opportunity to run the play.
"We wanted to run it in the first half, but the timing was messed up," Henriques said. "When the coach called it in the second half, I knew it was a touchdown."
"It was a big momentum-changer, it got our fans into the game," Henriques said.
The Warriors were driving to respond, but on a fake punt attempt on a 4th and 2 from their own 39-yard line, Washington's pass to Woody Hower fell incomplete after the third quarter clock had already ticked down to zeroes.
"I was trying to take a chance there," Brooks said. "We wanted to run a fake punt in this game, and we thought that was our chance to do it."
Dunbar took over on downs and marched 61 yard in 2:59 to take the lead. After Kevin Estep scored on a one-yard dive with 9:01 left in regulation, Henriques scored the two-point conversion to put the Poets ahead.
He put the game out of reach on a two-play, 64-yard drive—carrying the ball on both big gains—to give Dunbar it's final score with 6:01 left.
"I think [we] took them lightly after halftime and didn't want to wrap them up in the second half," Washington said.
The Warriors got off to a strong start on offense, despite the absence of Bolling, their top big-play threat in the passing game.
"That was real big," Washington said. "He was a real big part of us. He means a whole lot."
Washington went 18-of-31 for 138 yards and two touchdowns—including 11-of-15 for 87 yards and both touchdowns in the first half.
Kelly, who had 84 yards on 13 first-half carries, finished with 143 yards on 26 carries.
"The momentum on that trick pass, that really turned things around," Kelly said. "We tried to pick our heads up, but sometimes things don't work the way you want them to."
An estimated 1,000 Havre de Grace fans were on hand for the team's first state final appearance since 1988.
"That was huge," Stallings said. "We had the whole community on our back."
Havre de Grace will graduate 11 seniors from Saturday's championship runner-up—David Kelly, Erik Thompson, Travonn Bond, Deylin Lucas, Matthew Holl, Nick Gartside, Ryan Weismiller, Mike Kelly, Bolling, Werts and Stallings.
4:22—HdG: Darin Washington eight-yard pass to Jordan Stallings; Ryan Weismiller kick failed; HdG 6, Dunbar 0
11:24—HdG: Washington three-yard pass to Stallings; Two-point try failed; HdG 12, Dunbar 0
3:17—Dunbar: Epe Henriques 75-yard pass to Andre Davis; Two-point try failed; HdG 12, Dunbar 6
9:01—Dunbar: Kevin Estep one-yard run; Henriques run for two-point conversion; Dunbar 14, HdG 12
6:01—Dunbar: Henriques 37-yard run; JaQuan Holt run for two-point conversion; Dunbar 22, HdG 12