BALTIMORE -- The Hornets traveled for an out of state showdown, as No. 4 Mansfield battled 9-time Maryland state champions, Paul Laurence Dunbar school out of Baltimore Friday night and came away victorious, winning 29-26 over the Poets.
With less than two minutes in the fourth quarter, Mansfield (1-0) marched down the field into the Dunbar red zone and Hornets quarterback Kyle Wisnieski found senior wideout Mike Hershman in the end zone to give Mansfield the 27-26 lead. The Hornets would follow with the two-point conversion to go on to seal the win.
Dunbar (0-1) had been down 21-6 early in the third quarter but was able to put together some offense with three scoring drives to get back into the game. Dunbar quarterback William Crest went off, running in a score at the end of the third quarter to make it 21-12, then threw a 62-yard bomb to wideout Dominic Miller to bring the Poets within a point, and finally took the lead when Crest ran into the end zone from five yards out.
“He was unbelievable,” Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said of Crest, a senior West Virginia commit. “He was complete package, tall, big arm, athletic.”
Though the Hornets never gave up and stuck with the game plan, which was play solid defense and get the football back into Wisnieski’s hands.
Extra Points not Dunbar’s ally: Dunbar was only able to convert an extra point once, which put the Poets behind the majority of the game. Mansfield drew first blood in the second quarter when Wisnieski ran in a quarterback sneak. Then Dunbar responded with a score but missed the extra point on a field goal try putting the Poets behind by one. Dunbar was 1-for-3 on point-after tries.
Brendan Hill is hard to miss: The Mansfield junior tight end is 6-foot-5 and blocks out the sun when on the football field. Hill has tremendous athleticism and has great hands. Wisnieski was able to find Hill easily all alone in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass to give the Hornets a 14-6 lead, heading into halftime.
Making a statement: Aside from showing the nation what Massachusetts football is all about, Mansfield proved something to themselves without playing a down.
“We really just had a great trip,” Redding said. “We spent two days in Washington, D.C., and that alone made it a great trip. But for us, to come out like this, this is really a great memory. This was an opportunity to find out about ourselves.”
Of course, the Hornets did much more than that, starting their season with what already might be the biggest statement win by any team in the Commonwealth this year.
“I'm not shocked,” Redding told EPSN Boston, “but I'm surprised. We didn't really scrimmage that well."
Raucous environment: The stands were nearly full by the time the Hornets took the field for pregame warmups around 6 p.m. The concrete bleachers were filled with about 4,000 fans – by Redding’s estimation – including the 100 or so family and friends who made the trek down to the Charm City.
“It was unbelievable,” Redding said of the scene. “Even around the perimeter of the stadium, people who couldn’t get in were watching through the fence. It was opening night for them, too, so it was a big deal.
“For a Week 1 game though, it felt like a playoff atmosphere."