Thursday, September 22, 2005

Blair converts 40 years of frustration into milestone win

Apparently, Corey Sanders reads the local newspapers a lot.
When the Blair High senior nose guard leafed through the Sept. 14 edition of The Gazette, he noticed a mention of Blair’s historical plight against cross-town rival Springbrook, which made the five-mile trip to Four Corners for the teams’ 33rd all-time meeting Friday. The news was harsh: The Blazers had not beaten Springbrook on the field for a very long time.
So he went out and did something about it, recovering a crucial fumble to preserve a 12-7 win that, in the annals of Blair-Springbrook football, is historic.
‘‘We read it,” Sanders said of the article. ‘‘We read it all week. We read it during halftime. We read it all game.”
During halftime? All game? Maybe Sanders had a copy of the paper rolled up in his sock. Blair coach Jeff Seals was asked about the possibility.
‘‘They weren’t reading it at halftime!” Seals exclaimed. ‘‘You know they lie so much.”
Whatever the case may be, here’s the cold, hard truth: Blair’s win was its first on-the-field victory over Springbrook in 40 years, dating back to a 13-7 decision in 1965. For a bit of perspective, that win came when Beatlemania was still thriving.
For four decades, the city of Silver Spring was a monocratic kingdom, and Springbrook ruled as a dictator wielding an iron scepter. In 32 previous meetings dating back to 1963, Blair was an astounding 2-30 against Springbrook (not counting the Blazers’ win last year because of a postseason forfeit by the Blue Devils for inadvertently using an ineligible player). The Blazers’ only other on-the-field win against its rival came in 1964. During those 40 years, Springbrook also made 11 playoff appearances and won six state titles. In contrast, Blair has never made the playoffs.
So it’s understandable that several players soaked an unsuspecting Seals with a water jug after Friday’s game, while others thumped chests and crowed about the resurrection of Blair football and the subjugation of their rival.
Now there’s an interesting term: rival. According to some, the rivalry had died long ago because of the one-sidedness of the affair.
After last year’s game, Norman Edwards, then Springbrook’s coach, said, ‘‘It’s not really a rivalry. Our kids don’t feel like it’s a rivalry, and I don’t think their kids think it’s a rivalry. I didn’t feel coming into the football game that they were any threat. I didn’t figure they could do anything to us to beat us. Our rivals are Blake and Paint Branch. Blair is not really in the picture.”
Seals, for one, wasn’t concerned with such talk.
‘‘If they say that, that’s their thoughts,” he said Friday. ‘‘I don’t know if it motivated [the Blazers], but we had a good week of practice. ... It’s nothing personal. I’m just happy for the kids to win. For me, every game is a big rivalry.”
Blair’s junior tailback, Terrin Flowers-Jackson, was a little more direct: ‘‘We were pumped up. The Gazette said we’re not rivals. ... I don’t think [the Blue Devils] are competitive any more.”
Such comments should make for great theater next season, but there’s plenty to talk about regarding this game. Flowers-Jackson is a good place to start. In his second varsity start, the shifty 5-foot-6, 152-pounder set a personal benchmark with 141 yards on 22 carries. He didn’t reach the end zone, but his nose for yardage (he has 275 yards in two games) certainly paved the way for senior fullback Jacob Wade’s 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter and junior quarterback Ross Williams’ 4-yarder game-clincher in the fourth.
‘‘The cutbacks were open,” Flowers-Jackson said. ‘‘That’s what I’m famous for. I’m smooth with it.”
The game was — how to say it gently? — smash-mouth football at its most rudimentary level. Williams attempted only one pass all night (an incompletion), while his Springbrook counterpart, senior Harold Brantley, went 3 for 8 for 42 yards. Blair’s methodical ground attack (227 yards on 49 carries) and stingy defense (Springbrook only gained 170 total yards) were the difference.
‘‘Our defense was on the field entirely too long,” Springbrook coach Rob Wendel said.
Springbrook, which has lost two straight, scored first when senior running back Derek Overton (13 carries, 78 yards) went in on a 12-yard run with 5:23 left in the first half. But Blair (1-1) answered immediately on the first play of its ensuing drive when a Flowers-Jackson 52-yard run and a facemask penalty brought the ball to the Springbrook 4-yard line. Two plays later, Wade (14 carries, 57 yards) punched it in. Senior Brian Arias’ extra-point attempt was blocked, leaving Springbrook with a 7-6 lead.
After more than 19 minutes of scoreless play, Blair struck again when Williams capped a sluggish 13-play, 65-yard drive with a 4-yard scoring run for a 12-7 lead (Wade’s 2-point conversion attempt failed). Springbrook had its chances to retake the lead, but its next two possessions both ended in fumbles — one from Overton and the other from junior running back Adou Kouadio, which ended up in the arms of Sanders with 56 seconds left.
‘‘Our first game went pretty well without turnovers,” Wendel said, ‘‘but when it came down to crunch time [Friday], we put the ball on the ground.”


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