Freshman answers pivotal Douglass question by James Peters Staff writer
With University of Tennessee recruit Paul Harris returning, Frederick Douglass High School football coach J.C. Pinkney knew he had one of the state’s premier wide receivers. The question entering preseason practice, however, was who was going to be throwing the ball to the 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior after the graduation of All-Gazette first team quarterback Taitor Reynolds.
No a small order at all, considering Reynolds threw for 1,396 yards and 18 touchdowns while also rushing for 327 yards and four scores to lead the Eagles to last year’s 2A state championship game.
The battle came down to senior Matt Paul, who is better known for his exploits as a linebacker, and freshman Devin Butler. In the end, Pinkney decided to go with Butler, and the young signal caller tossed a pair of touchdowns and ran for another in the team’s 20-7 win against Archbishop Spalding Friday night in Severn.
“One thing, we know how physical Matt is on defense and he’s passionate about that and we knew if we put him at quarterback, it would take away from that side of the ball,” Pinkney said. “He’s our man on defense and we didn’t want to risk anything on that side of the football with him having to come out.
“Devin, we just wanted to make sure he was ready for what we have going on. He has some Division I kids on this team, who are counting on him. That’s a lot of responsibility on a freshman and he’s handling it very well right now.”
Butler completed 8 of 16 passes for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 79-yard strike to Harris gave the Eagles an 8-7 first-quarter lead, and he hooked up with Harris again for a 46-yard score to make it 14-7 at halftime. Both touchdowns came on double moves by Harris that allowed him to run free in the Spalding secondary.
Butler capped his performance, which did include a pair of interceptions in the end zone, with a 90-yard touchdown run on an option play down the Douglass sideline in the fourth quarter for the final 13-point margin of victory.
“I’ve been working with him since the summer,” said Harris, who hauled in three passes for 142 yards in the win, which avenged last year’s season-opening loss. “I told him me and him would be famous. As my quarterback, I love him to death. We’ve got to keep working. We’re not eye to eye yet … but we’ve got the whole season to do that.”
Butler added: “I didn’t even think I was going to start [this season]. It’s a blessing to be a freshman quarterback and starting.”
Although Butler looks to be the answer at quarterback, the rest of the Douglass offensive backfield still seemed unsettled. Numerous running backs carried the ball. Junior Avery Wood was the best of the group, rushing for 94 yards on nine carries, including a 71-yard jaunt in the second half.
Kenneth Freeman (41 yards), Kevin Freeman (31 yards), Mikale Makle (25 yards) and Andre Thomas also handled the ball Friday and Paul saw limited action at fullback. The Eagles are attempting to replace the productive duo of Josef Hinnant and Emmanuel Smith, who graduated.