Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s inaugural “Gravy Bowl” against McKinley Tech, Phelps Coach Sonny Price is already considering the game a victory for his team. It’s been 15 years since the Panthers had a varsity football team, and playing for any type of championship is a novel concept.
So when Derrick Jones ran in the game-winning touchdown in overtime to lift Phelps to a 13-6 win over Theodore Roosevelt in the DCIAA Stripes Division semifinal last Friday, Price knew his team had turned a corner.
“It’s been a very exciting two or three days, trying to grasp this thing,” Price said. “This is truly our championship right here. We really don’t have much to lose, because we have gained being a program that’s being established, over 15 years since they’ve had football. The fact that we’ve had such an impactful season, we’ve pretty much already have won.”
Phelps (6-4) trailed the Rough Riders 7-0 at halftime, but established the run with Jones in the second half. Jones scored his first touchdown of the night to tie the game in the third quarter, and the Panthers engineered a 70-yard drive in overtime to set up the eventual game winner. It was the third win in four games for the Panthers, who are now charged with facing the league’s hottest team in McKinley (8-4), which beat Phelps 38-0 just three weeks ago.
“We’re going to have a little more fight in us,” Price said. “We’re looking to win.”
McKinley has proven to be the juggernaut in the Stripes Division with a high-wire offense and unforgiving defense. The numbers don’t lie. The Trainers have scored 38 points or more in each of their last eight wins. McKinley has recorded shutouts in six of those games, and has outscored Stripes Division foes 398-40 this season, with 28 of those points given up to Eastern in a win two weeks ago.
McKinley met Eastern for a second straight week in last Friday’s semifinal, winning 44-12. It was as complete of a win as the Trainers have had all season. Raymond Martin blocked a punt and returned it for a score, and Shaquante Simms added another special teams highlight with a kickoff return for a touchdown.
De’Markco Moorer rushed for one touchdown and threw for another — two plays that were a product of his durability, according to the team’s coach, Al Kallay. Moorer is the the prototypical player Kallay wants on his team in the future: a versatile and tough athlete, one who played every down on Friday night.
“He’s tough, he hits, he doesn’t complain about being on the field,” Kallay said.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Moorer starts at inside linebacker and slot receiver, and runs the wildcat formation at quarterback. He also plays every special teams down for the Trainers, and his longevity this season put him in position to score twice, Kallay said. That kind of spark will be needed Saturday against Phelps in the Gravy Bowl, the place Kallay expected his team to be when camp broke in August.
“This is what we expected. We have a lot of senior leadership,” Kallay said. “The only thing I have to make sure of this week is making sure the guys stay focused, and just understand that this is a championship game. What happened in the past is the past.”
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