The first of three state title games today pits the Dunbar Poets of East Baltimore against the Perryville Panthers of Cecil County. Dunbar comes into the game with an 11-2 record (one of the two losses came from a forfeit), and Perryville currently sits at 13-0. Dunbar, looking to defend their state title from last season, are considered the heavy favorites.

Last night’s Class 4A game was a thriller, with Old Mill coming back from a 21-0 first half deficit to claim a 36-35 victory in overtime.

I’ll use this space today to post periodic scoring updates, and some general notes on the game. Follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates throughout the day.

Final Score: Dunbar 30, Perryville 11. Check back for a recap of the game, along with statistics for both teams.

2:43 PM- Game over. Dunbar 32, Perryville 11. The Poets win their second title in a row, and their sixth in the last eight seasons.

2:35 PM- Dunbar 32, Perryville 11. This one’s over. After Lavar Highsmith forced a 4th down fumble, Paki Brown took the ball 13 yards for another Dunbar touchdown. The ensuing two-point conversion turns the score into a lopsided one, although this game was extremely close throughout.

2:30 PM- Dunbar 24, Perryville 11. It’s fitting that DeonTay McManus is the guy who scores the game-deciding touchdown. The West Virginia commit ran the ball in from 29 yards out, and then added the two-point conversion with two minutes remaining. This one is pretty much in the books, as the Perryville offense hasn’t been able to do much at all in the second half.

2:23 PM- This game has been full of missed opportunities. Perryville has not been able to get much going offensively in the second half, going three-and-out on two consecutive drives. Dunbar now has the ball again at their own 28-yard line with five minutes to go. The Poets still lead, 16-11.

2:16 PM- Still 16-11, Dunbar. Perryville turned the ball over on downs, giving Dunbar the ball back at the 40-yard line with 8 minutes remaining. This game can still go either way, and it could be decided by one big play.

2:12 PM- Lavar Highsmith broke off a big run for Dunbar, but Joe Peaker met him after 17 yards, and ripped the ball out of Highsmith’s hands. After recovering the fumble, Perryville’s offense took the field, and Gabe Sherrod immediately hooked up with Ethan Griffin for a 28-yard pass play to put the Panthers in scoring position.

2:06 PM- Dunbar 16, Perryville 11. The third quarter has just ended, and the Poets still hold their five-point lead. The goal line stop was huge for Dunbar, and the offense is looking to build on the defensive success. It’s simple for both teams as we head to the fourth quarter; they need to score. This one is gearing up for an entertaining finish.

1:58 PM- This game is getting more and more interesting. Perryville drove all the way down the field and faced a 2nd & goal at the 1-yard line. The Dunbar defense responded by making three consecutive goal line stops, causing a Perryville turnover on downs. Dunbar still leads, 16-11.

1:42 PM- 16-11, Dunbar. Dunbar head coach Lawrence Smith must have said something great at halftime, as the Poets quickly responded to open the second half. Lavar Highsmith returned the opening kickoff 52 yards to the Perryville 25-yard line, and Charles Brown Jr. ran for a touchdown on the next play. A William Crest pass for two gives Dunbar a five-point lead, and a whole ton of momentum.

1:33 PM- The first half’s top player has been Ethan Griffin for Perryville. Playing halfback, he’s put up 104 total yards (64 rush, 25 receiving, 15 return), and has been all over the field on defense. So far, it reminds me of Torie Wagner’s performance for Old Mill last night. It hasn’t been quite as sensational, but it’s certainly been a good one.

1:22 PM- Halftime. 11-8, Perryville. Perryville still holds the lead, against all odds. A big reason for Dunbar’s poor performance is penalties; the Poets have committed eight penalties for a total of 86 yards. Perryville’s Ethan Griffin has 104 total yards in the half, while Dunbar’s DeonTay McManus has been held to only 34 total yards in the half.

It’s been an offense-heavy game thus far with a lot of yards, although the score does not reflect that. Each team has been inconsistent inside the red zone and unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

Dunbar will need to improve their discipline in the second half to have any chance of winning this game. At this point, I still believe that the Poets will come back and win, and that their speed will be the thing that puts them over the top. With that said, Perryville has definitely come out focused and ready to play.

1:06 PM- After an impressive Perryville drive stalls at the 17-yard line, the Dunbar defensive front blocks a 37-yard field goal attempt from Jacob Morgan. On the ensuing play, William Crest hits Ernest Hawkins on a beautiful 36-yard pass. Perryville still leads, 11-8.

12:54 PM- Dunbar is shooting themselves in the foot with mental and fundamental errors. After a great 51-yard pass play from Crest to Aaron Haynes, a penalty sideline and two bad snaps led to a turnover on downs. Perryville takes over, still up 11-8 and feeling like they hold most of the game’s momentum.

12:45 PM- 11-8, Perryville. Gabe Sherrod hits a wide open Brian Matthews for a 45-yard catch and run for a score. Ethan Griffin converts on a rush for the two-point conversion. Perryville’s playing very well, and is really having their way on offense.

12:43 PM- The first quarter ends with Dunbar holding their 8-3 lead. You have to think that the Poets’ size will wear down a thin Perryville line, but the Panthers continue to get solid penetration in the running game. While the score isn’t high right now, both teams are putting up a lot of yards, and that pattern could continue throughout the game. Perryville can not afford to let Dunbar take a two-score lead, as the Poets have been great while playing with a lead in the state playoffs.

12:35 PM- 8-3, Dunbar. William Crest stayed on the sideline as Dunbar utilized a Wildcat formation to reach the end zone. Five different players ran the ball, and Terrance Williams capped off the drive with a two-yard sweep to the left side. Crest came back on the field and hit Ernest Hawkins through the air for the two-point conversion. A minute remains in the first quarter.

12:24 PM- 3-0, Perryville.  A 25-yard shovel pass from Gabe Sherrod to Ethan Griffin to go along with 27 yards off of Dunbar penalties gives the Panthers the lead with six minutes remaining in the first quarter. Dunbar’s line is somehow getting pushed around by Perryville’s, who are much smaller.

12:18 PM- We’re still scoreless her with 8 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Perryville looks like they’ve come to play. If not for a somewhat lucky bounce that led to a Dunbar interception, the Panthers would probably be leading 7-0. After a strong defensive series, the Perryville offense takes the field again, with the ball on their own 46-yard line. The Panthers need to take advantage of Dunbar’s early complacency if they want to win this game.

11:55 AM- As we await the opening kickoff, I’ve noticed a couple things about the two teams. The average weight of Dunbar’s offensive line is 297 pounds; Perryville’s line averages 228. Aditionally, this is Dunbar’s ninth appearance in a state championship game, while it’s Perryville’s first. Many here are giving Perryville very little chance to win, but if last week’s performance against Fort Hill can be replicated, the Panthers may have a chance to do the improbable.

11:38 AM- Both teams are warming up on the field right now. Dunbar has a much deeper roster than Perryville, and also looks to have the size advantage to go with it. Deontay McManus, the Poets’ star receiver/defensive back, is catching passes from sophomore quarterback William Crest.

The Dunbar fans are notorious for showing up late to these state championship games, as their section of the stadium is nearly empty at this point.