KENSINGTON – The Blair varsity football team improved to 8-1 and clinched a playoff berth Friday with a seesaw victory against Einstein, 46-28.
“We ran into one of the top-tiered football teams in the county, and we only played for three quarters and four minutes,” said Titans Head Coach Mike Bonavia. “They wore us down and we were outmanned in certain positions.”
Even with the loss, Einstein (6-3) has still earned its first winning record in four years but must beat undefeated Sherwood (9-0) next week to clinch a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, the Blazers are set to host undefeated Damascus (9-0) to determine playoff seeding.
Blair wide receiver Clifford Carter and running back Eric Zokouri, both seniors, received Most Valuable Player honors for their respective performances.
Carter finished the game with 249 yards and three touchdowns. Zokouri wasn’t far behind with 160 yards rushing and three touchdowns of his own.
Titans senior running back Richard Gadson celebrated Einstein’s Senior Night and earned his own MVP honors with 152 yards on the ground and one touchdown.
“We knew Einstein wasn’t a pushover team and we had to focus in practice all week,” said Carter. “We had to come out extremely focused and execute every single play.”
The two teams appeared evenly matched for most of the game as the lead changed hands four times.
The Titans, however, seemed to forget all about the fourth quarter.
Blair whittled away at Einstein’s lead by posting three touchdowns in four minutes, including a 42-yard pick-six by senior safety Kasim Brown.
Einstein’s fourth quarter meltdown was a far cry from how the Titans played in the first three quarters.
Einstein senior defensive back Caleb Lewsey intercepted Blazers senior quarterback Desmond Colby on Blair’s first possession and the Titans capitalized.
Blair’s defensive coverage broke down as Gadson darted into the paint untouched for a three-yard score to put Einstein up first.
The Blazers answered right back as Colby aired the ball out into Carter’s waiting arms. Carter turned on the jets and outran the Titans defenders for a 77-yard touchdown.
A few plays later, Blair Head Coach Andrew Fields called for a gutsy fourth down conversion at the Blair 13-yard line.
Colby tossed the ball back to Carter and the receiver was off to the races. Einstein defenders were unable to catch Carter as he earned his second touchdown of the night, this time from 83 yards out.
A fumbled snap denied Blair its extra point.
Einstein senior running back Christian Greaves put the Titans back on top in the second quarter with a 29-yard touchdown.
Titans fans cheered as Greaves flew past the Blair defense and caught quarterback Jason Clingman’s pass in stride before launching himself into the end zone.
Zokouri, who had been relatively quiet in the first half, decided to break his silence.
The senior spun around Einstein defenders, breaking tackles on a 23-yard run to set up his first score of the evening.
Zokouri ducked his head and torpedoed his way through the Titans defense for a nine-yard touchdown to give Blair back the lead.
A second fumbled snap on the extra point attempt denied Zokouri his exclamation point.
Greaves made sure the Blazers weren’t ahead for too long.
The senior stood wide open when he jumped into the air and caught Clingman’s pass up the middle for a 17-yard score.
Meanwhile, penalties and turnovers kept Blair from capitalizing.
Titans junior defensive back Jayden Ashby, who posted four interceptions three weeks ago against Paint Branch, intercepted Colby to give Einstein great field position.
Clingman slipped into the end zone on a one-yard quarterback sneak to extend Einstein’s lead.
Zokouri didn’t let the Titans feel comfortable.
The senior broke free from the pile and ran 37 yards down the sidelines for his second score of the night.
This time, sophomore kicker Ricky Morri made the extra point.
It appeared as though the two missed extra point attempts would come back to haunt Blair as it trailed by two points.
Then Einstein imploded in the fourth quarter.
Blair junior safety Enoch Owumi intercepted Clingman and ran the ball back 40 yards to set up Zokouri’s eight-yard touchdown.
Fields decided to go for two. The conversion, however, was no good.
Carter wasn’t going to be outdone by his teammate. Colby flung a long pass in Carter’s direction and the senior caught the ball in stride.
An Einstein defender grabbed onto Carter’s arm and Carter pulled the defender along en route to a 52-yard touchdown to earn Blair’s second hat trick of the game.
Brown intercepted Clingman for a pick-six a couple of minutes later. Colby passed to senior receiver Chris Butler for the two-point conversion to send the Titans packing.
“The reason we were able to run the ball so successfully is because they had to account for Desmond and Clifford and Chris Butler and all those guys out wide,” said Fields. “It opened up a lot of running lanes for us. It changes defenses.”