Sideline Report DCIAA Semifinals

Sideline Report DCIAA Semifinals

Coolidge quarterback Emmanuel Yeager is sacked by Dunbar defenders in a game Oct. 31. Dunbar meets Ballou in a semifinal game Saturday.
Coolidge quarterback Emmanuel Yeager is sacked by Dunbar defenders in a game Oct. 31. Dunbar meets Ballou in a semifinal game Saturday. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saturday at Cardozo

Ballou (5-4) vs. Dunbar (5-5), noon

Last meeting: Dunbar beat Ballou, 45-12, Oct. 3.

Playoff history: After losing its previous 14 meetings with Dunbar by an average of 25 points, Ballou beat the Crimson Tide, 34-33, to win its first Turkey Bowl in 2006. The Knights forfeited their playoff spot last year, after they were found to have been using an ineligible player. Dunbar has played in the past 10 Turkey Bowls, winning eight, including last year's.

Outlook: When Dunbar was 0-5, its worst start in Coach Craig Jefferies's 13 years on the sideline, another playoff trip didn't look likely. The Crimson Tide struggled on defense when playing opponents outside the DCIAA. Each opponent in Dunbar's first four completed games scored at least 30 points. Before this season, only five of its previous 43 opponents reached 30 points.

Perhaps those games toughened up the Crimson Tide. Jefferies speculates that maybe the team has made some of the veterans realize that success isn't guaranteed, even for the city's most successful program in the past decade. Dunbar has looked dramatically more focused, winning its five subsequent games and outscoring its opponents by a combined 242-79. Granted, those opponents are far below the caliber of teams such as top-ranked Good Counsel and Ohio power North Canton Hoover.

Dunbar has not had a dependable running game for several years, which put the onus on quarterback Tyree White to deliver, and he has, over the past five games, completing 45 of 68 passes for 973 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception. Receivers Deon Long and Chris Jefferies have made it easier on him, as has tight end D.T. Lesane.

Ballou must control the ball if it wants to hang close, and it has the personnel to do so. Senior Marcus Horne (703 yards) is one of five Knights with at least 200 yards rushing this season, and the team will be much more effective if quarterback Delonte Edwards can hit receivers Larry Pinkard, Deangelo Smalls and Joshua Steele every so often to keep Dunbar's defense honest.

Coolidge (8-2) vs. H.D. Woodson (5-4), 3:30

Last meeting: Woodson beat Coolidge, 34-13, in last year's DCIAA semifinals.

Playoff history: Coolidge has been in the playoffs three of the past four years, advancing to the Turkey Bowl in 2005. Woodson is making its seventh postseason appearance in eight years, winning the Turkey Bowl in 2002.

Outlook: This has the potential to be an outstanding game. Both teams have game breakers on offense, and many points are likely to be scored. Clearly, the difference will be which defense steps up and makes a couple of stops.

When Coolidge has won this season, the Colts haven't had to worry about their defense making stops. Instead, Coolidge challenged its opponents to keep pace with its offense. With so many game-breaking options at quarterback Emmanuel Yeager's disposal -- receivers Derrell Person, Josh Ford and Martize Barr and running backs Avery Williams and Eric Shaw -- defenses can't key on any one player. The Colts have run or passed for 22 touchdowns this season on plays 30 yards or longer, proving they can strike from anywhere.

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