In a contest that was essentially a play in game for a spot in the Maryland 2A South playoffs, Gwynn Park Yellow Jackets were able to overcome a slow start to outlast the Friendly Patriots, 34-24 and clinch the No. 4 spot in the playoffs.
“After we forfeited the game against Forestville everybody doubted us about making the playoffs, all I told them is we got each other,” said Gwynn Park head coach Danny Hayes. “I told them I got their back as well as they have mine, basically it is what it is, and this is the outcome we’re going get out of it every time we have each other’s back.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Yellow Jackets got on the board first when Aaron Parker connected with Michael Porter for an eight yard touchdown pass a minute into the second quarter, taking a 7-0 lead.
Friendly was able to respond late in the second quarter after forcing a three and out from Gwynn Park on its second possession of the quarter, quarterback Reicardo Smith on the team’s first play threw a 43 yard touchdown pass to Keenan Anunay to cut the lead to 7-6.
Facing fourth and long the Yellow Jackets went for a fake punt, but were unsuccessful on the attempt. The Yellow Jackets defense was able to hold firm however. Friendly with a short field marched down deep into Gwynn Park territory before Vincent Woodard came up with an interception for a short return.
The Yellow Jackets defense would be called upon to stop the Patriots offense for a second time in the quarter and working with a short field again, the Yellow Jackets were able to sack Reicardo Smith then force an incompletion on back to back plays, forcing the Patriots to punt; the Yellow Jackets went into halftime holding onto a 7-6 lead.
If the first half was slow paced, the second half was a complete opposite. On the opening play of the half, Parker would find running back Andre Gray for a short screen pass; Gray would do the rest of the work as he ended up taking the ball the remaining 74 yards for a 79 yard touchdown score.
“They were sending pressure a lot so coach called a great called just 62 chip, they came up close, I lobbed it up to my running back and he took it,” said Parker.
Gray wasn’t finished though, after intercepting a pass from Smith on defense, Gray on Gwynn Park’s next offensive drive would catch another screen pass, this time taking it 82 yards for the touchdown outrunning the whole Friendly secondary, giving Gwynn Park a commanding 20-6 lead with nine minutes to play in the third quarter.
“When I saw daylight I was just gone, I just thought, I’m not going let no one catch me,” said Gray. “A couple games ago I let someone catch me, and I said to myself I’m not going let that happen again, so I had to kick it to another gear this time.”
Friendly was able to respond due in part to a heavy ground attack. Reicardo Smith and wide receiver Abraham Lyles III led the charge, with Lyles III scoring two rushing touchdowns, the first on a 12 yard wide receiver sweep, and the second a five yard wide receiver sweep. The scores brought Friendly within 20-18 as the third quarter came to an end.
In the fourth quarter Gwynn Park defense would step up once again, forcing two more Smith interceptions the offense was able to capitalize. Quarterback Parker rushed for two scores in the quarter, giving him a total of five for the game. Reicardo Smith of Friendly would add a late touchdown pass to Khari Bussey that brought the final score to 34-24.
“We had everything in our hand, if we win the last two we make the playoffs, so it was a tough season, and I was just glad we fought until the end,” said Friendly head coach Vaughn Smith. “Just finish man, that’s our number one goal going into this offseason. If we win our last two games, we finish, we’re in the playoffs, so we just got to finish.”
The win moved the Yellow Jackets to (7-3,7-1) and clinched Gwynn Park a playoff spot in the Maryland 2A South playoffs as the No. 4 seed. Gwynn Park will visit No.1 Thomas Stone Friday, November 13 in the regional semifinals.