Controversy over eligibility leaves lingering hangover
Friday, November 26, 2010
As he watched H.D. Woodson win its third consecutive D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship with a 44-12 victory over Dunbar, Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) wanted to keep the focus on the game. The buildup to Thursday's game focused less on the players in the 41st Turkey Bowl, but rather on a controversy involving which team would have the opportunity to play the Warriors.
Ballou had beaten Dunbar, 35-31, in the DCIAA semifinals, but was forced to forfeit that victory for using an ineligible player, putting Dunbar in Thursday's game. The Knights subsequently appealed and continued practicing until their appeal was denied on Wednesday, less than 24 hours before kickoff.
"These games ought to be played on the field; hopefully we can get to that point in the future," Gray said. "I've got to work with our leaders and make sure all the rules are observed so everything can be decided between the goal lines."
Gray was not the only politician in attendance with that sentiment.
"It was a very unfortunate situation, but when the facts come out people will see it differently," city council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) said.
"It creates a lot of hard feelings and gets us talking about something other than the game. . . . It takes away from what I think is the biggest game in the city for our kids. This is an event."
Woodson's players, for the most part, said they did not care who they played, though tight end-defensive end Darius Redman preferred playing Dunbar "because they've been talking the most trash."
There were only a smattering of Ballou representatives at the game. Coach Moe Ware arrived early and watched from the sideline, while standout lineman Lamonte Clark was one of the few Knights' players in attendance. Afterward, Clark walked around the field congratulating the Warriors' players and thanking them for beating Dunbar.
"There were a lot of things we put in for this game that I see would have worked good," said Clark, a senior who has accepted a scholarship to play for Kansas State. "I'm very disappointed with how it went down. It shouldn't have gone this way. I just hope Coach Ware recovers from it and continues coaching at Ballou."
While Clark said he was unsure until the morning whether he would attend the game, Ware said he never had a doubt.
"Thanksgiving, this is what I do, no matter who is playing who in the Turkey Bowl," Ware said. "The Turkey Bowl is what Washingtonians do."