Ninth-year Urbana High School football coach Ryan Hines asked himself one question as the Hawks returned to the field following their overtime score in Friday’s Class 3A West Region semifinal at top-seeded Damascus: Should he put the football in the hands of a sophomore or a senior?
Down by a point after the Swarmin’ Hornets scored on their first overtime possession, Hines’ mind was already made up about going for the two-point conversion.
“You’re on the road, you’re in a hostile environment, they had the momentum going into overtime and then they scored on their first play, I didn’t want them to have the ball anymore,” Hines said.
As Damascus’ defense collapsed on Urbana sophomore running back Raekwon Gray, a likely choice to be dished the ball for the 30th time Friday, Hawks sophomore quarterback Donovan Pannell softly flicked the ball to wide open senior tight end Brendan Wharton in the middle of the end zone to clinch the 24-23, overtime win.
“I think everyone in the stadium probably thought we were going to give it to [Gray]. Brendan had dropped a few passes earlier that would have prolonged drives, so I’m glad he was able to get that one,” Hines said. “That 6-yard throw was in the air for 90 seconds, I think. That’s what it felt like. We were big underdogs, no one thought we had a chance.”
Friday’s win was Urbana’s (8-3) fifth straight after a 3-3 start and Damascus’ (10-1) first loss.
The Hawks will face second-seeded Seneca Valley, a 12-7 winner over No. 3 North Hagerstown, in next Friday’s region final.
“We kept in-house how badly we were banged up,” Damascus defensive coordinator Al Thomas said. “The kids showed great courage to play as hard as they did. When you go into overtime, if you win the toss, you go on defense. Then you know what the other team does. We would’ve done the same thing they did.”
After a scoreless first quarter during which both teams struggled to produce on offense, Urbana took an 8-0 lead when Pannell’s 31-yard pass to Darren Ambush set up Gray’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Gray finished with 145 yards and two touchdowns.
The Hawks increased their lead to 16-0 early in the third quarter on Pannell’s 40-yard pass to Wharton.
The Swarmin’ Hornets, who lost leading rusher Trevor Patton to injury in the first quarter, cut Urbana’s lead in half with Chase Williams’ 8-yard pass to Zach Bradshaw.
After several clutch defensive plays — Damascus twice stopped Urbana inside the 5-yard line — The Swarmin’ Hornets tied the game with Williams’ 7-yard pass to Rashard Budd.
Caleb Baisden ran the ball 10 yards into the end zone on Damascus’ first play in overtime and the Swarmin’ Hornets went for the field goal.
“We were debating whether or not to go for it. But we just decided we had to go for the win. It was win or go home [at that point],” Pannell said. “I think we shocked the world. No one expected us to win.”
Urbana 24, Damascus 23 (OT)
Urbana (8-3) 0 8 8 8 8 8 — 24
Damascus (10-1) 0 0 8 15 7 — 23
U — Raekwon Gray 2 run (Nathan Miller 2-point pass from Donovan Miller)
U — Brendan Wharton 40 pass from Donovan Pannell (Raekwon Gray run)
D — Zach Bradshaw 7 pass from Chase Williams (Zach Bradshaw 2-point pass from Jalen Christian)
D — Rashard Budd 7 pass from Chase Williams (Caleb Baisden run)
D — Caleb Baisden 10 run (Joseph Curry kick)
U— Raekwon Gray 3 run (Brendan Wharton 2-point pass from Donovan Pannell)
Urbana — Raekwon Gray 29-145.
Damascus — John Hanley 14-52; Chase Williams 8-23; Caleb Baisden 6-20.
Urbana — Donovan Pannell 11-15-243-0.
Damascus — Chase Williams 11-19-149-1.
Urbana —Darren Ambush 5-132; Brendan Wharton 4-92
Damascus — Bruno Smith 2-80; Zach Bradshaw 3-31; Rashard Budd 2-18.