Taft made a furious third-quarter comeback against Dunbar, before the Mightymen turned up their high-octane offense and cruised to a 66-26 win in the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs Friday night at Lane Tech Stadium.
After Dunbar sprinted out to a 34-6 halftime lead, the Eagles roared back with three consecutive touchdowns to cut the lead to 34-26.
But with just over a minute to play in the third quarter and the Eagles driving inside the Mightymen red zone, a jarring hit on Taft senior quarterback Kurt Klumak caused a fumble. Dunbar freshman defensive lineman Michael Jenkins recovered the loose ball.
Two plays later, Dunbar’s star quarterback Darvell Harris broke the game open with a 67-yard touchdown run.
“That play changed the momentum,” said Mightymen wide receiver Jayton Dorsey. “I was worried – they had us on our heels.”
Despite the untimely turnover, Taft Head Coach Matt Walsh praised his quarterback’s performance.
“Kurt hasn’t fumbled much this season, so I don’t want to pin that on him,” Walsh said. “I think he had one of his better games of the season.”
Klumak accounted for 329 total yards on offense and was instrumental in leading the Eagles’ third-quarter rally. He broke off a 69-yard touchdown run and then led the offense to two more scoring drives. Senior running back Brandon Scales capped off those drives with touchdown runs of 18 and 1 yard.
But the athleticism of Dunbar (7-3) proved too much for the Eagles in the fourth quarter. Dorsey ran for a 7-yard score and junior tailback Stefan Porch busted loose for a 65-yard touchdown run. Junior cornerback Cedric Hawkins Jr. capped off the scoring by returning his second interception of the night 47 yards for a touchdown.
Darvell Harris lit up the scoreboard, completing 16 of 23 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns.
Though the game almost slipped away from the South Siders, Dunbar coach Glenn Johnson said he was happy with the outcome.
“Not taking away anything from Taft, but I thought that maybe our guys took them for granted,” Johnson said. “Our guys eventually figured it was a real serious ballgame and kind of responded.”
Despite the loss, Klumak said he was proud of his team’s performance.
“We gave it all we had and put so much heart into this game,” he said.
Coach Walsh echoed his quarterback’s statements and said his players have nothing to hang their heads about.
“We won the conference, pitched three shutouts and got into the state tournament,” he said. “We didn’t win a state game, but Dunbar is a hell of a team.”
Taft Impact Offensive Players:
QB Kurt Klumak – 10/25 for 224 yards, 1 TD, 2 Int; 13 rushes for 105 yards, 1 TD
RB Gerardo Bucio – 24 rushes for 110 yards
RB Brandon Scales – 3 rushes for 31 yards, 2 TDs
WR George Vidas – 4 receptions for 158 yards, 1TD
Taft Impact Defensive Leaders:
SS Leo Ivery – 6 tackles
DB Brandon Scales – 6 tackles
LB Paul Masnica – 1 Int
LB Matthew Griffith – 1 Int
Quote of the Night: “He was almost the goat and the hero in the same game,” – Coach Johnson in reference to Mightymen QB Darvell Harris’ 6 touchdowns and 4 turnovers