Despite giving up some big plays in the first half, the Maryland FBUNC team handily defeated Metro Maryland 40-14, winning the Atlantic bracket and moving one game closer to the national title.
The first half was a back-and-forth battle, with each team feeling each other out for weaknesses.
Metro Maryland took advantage of an early Maryland fumble from running back Keilan Robinson and dominated time of possession in the first half, with their initial 74-yard drive clocking in at over nine minutes.
The team struggled, though, to get any sort of running game started and were stuffed time and time again by Maryland's gigantic defensive line, led by tackles Tyriek Crutchfield, Myles Harris, and 6'3" 260 lb Tayquon Johnson.
Instead, Metro Maryland took to the air, capping their first drive with a 16-yard TD pass from quarterback D'Andre Gibson to receiver Anthony Thomas. On another drive later in the second quarter, Gibson hooked up with receiver Zachary Garcia for a 74-yard touchdown pass.
But Maryland answered Metro Maryland's scores quickly, including a 62-yard TD run by Robinson and a three-yard run by Davon Butler.
At the half, Metro Maryland led 14-13.
Metro Maryland took to the air again in the second half, but Maryland made big halftime adjustments, tightening coverage and increasing pressure on Gibson in the pocket.
"Guys were out of place in terms of scheme at the beginning of the game," Maryland head coach Terrence Byrd said. "We made a couple of defensive adjustments."
The adjustments proved to be exactly what Maryland needed.
On the first play of the third quarter, Maryland blitzed Gibson hard and hit him as he threw. Maryland defensive back Latrele Palmer plucked the ball out of the air and then ran it back 28 yards for a pick-six touchdown.
"The pick-six was really the play that hurt," Metro Maryland head coach Pat Parise said after the game. "It just sucked the life out of us."
Metro Maryland's Garcia agreed.
"The momentum changed a lot," Garcia said. "[Maryland] came out with another plan."
Garcia said the biggest issue was not coverage in the secondary, but the pressure Maryland brought on Gibson in the pocket.
"I was open a lot of the time," he said, "but our quarterback just didn't have enough time."
In addition to Metro Maryland's offense faltering in the second half, the defense struggled with stopping Maryland's running game.
Butler, who had three TDs for Maryland on the day, said his offensive line also did a better job with their blocking assignments in the second half.
"We opened up holes and lined up together," Butler said. "The running backs cut back [into the] lanes and just drove it through."
Parise said he was happy with how the team played even though his team was on the losing end.
"We turned a lot of heads out there," Parise told the team after the game. "We had a great first half, but in the second half we let the wind get out of the sails."
Maryland's victory advances them to the regional semi-finals (round 3), where they will face Indiana, who advanced out of the Great Lakes regional matchup in Indiana. The game will take place Saturday, December 14 in Alexandria, Va.
Written by Youth1 Contributors Sam Hedenberg and Sydney Marino
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