Frederick Douglass High School football coach J.C. Pinkney said it feels like he has watched the game film of last year’s 43-6 loss to Middletown in the Class 2A state championship more than any other tape.
It was the Eagles’ (12-1) first finals appearance since 1975 and it wasn’t a pretty sight, Pinkney said. But that means the Eagles can only improve in Saturday’s rematch at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
“Being at the state final at that point was a little overwhelming for everyone in the program. We hadn’t been there for 36 years. Emotionally it took a toll and then we played what was probably the best team in the state last year, if not, second best,” Pinkney said. “Our attitude is a lot different this year. The stadium is not a big deal. We just want to play. We want to learn from our mistakes.”
Though Douglass’ dynamic offense is run by freshman quarterback Devin Butler, the Eagles have experience in key positions.
The Eagles have been propelled this year by a more balanced offense and they will need to mix it up against undefeated Middletown’s (13-0) huge defensive line. The Knights have allowed opponents an average of only 10 points per game.
Butler and 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior wide receiver Paul Harris have been quite productive this fall. Harris has caught 28 passes for 603 yards and three touchdowns.
Douglass also has several options on the ground. Six different players have rushed for more than 200 yards, but Avery Wood (427 yards, three touchdowns), Devonte Williams (388, one) and Kenneth Freeman (367, five) lead the way.
The Eagles veteran defense has also been integral in their success this fall. The Eagles have only allowed 8.1 points per game and have shut out seven opponents.
While D’sean Cummings (6-5, 220), Rodney Boyd (6-2, 185), Charles Davis (5-10, 175) and Matthew Paul (5-9, 195) anchored a seemingly impenetrable defensive side, Middletown has one of the state’s best running backs at its disposal in power back Zach Welch (2,236 yards, 29 TD).
Welch is complemented by Jess Powell (15 TD) and quarterback Tim Pirrone’s capable arm.
“They’re not a flashy team. They run what they run and they run it well. Their offensive line understands their assignments and that kid Zach Welch is special. He would be special for anyone,” Pinkney said.
That being said, Douglass knows what’s coming this time, he added. And they’re more ready now than ever.
“Everybody is like, ‘Oh, they beat you last time.’ But that’s in the past. We’re going to prepare right and hopefully execute everything we plan,” Harris said.