H.D. Woodson Warriors defeat Dunbar to win DCIAA football title
In the end, H.D. Woodson's preparation for the Turkey Bowl didn't hinge upon which team lined up against the Warriors. Their defense was just too good for anyone.
Even though Woodson learned less than 24 hours before Thursday's kickoff that it would face Dunbar and not Ballou for the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title, the Warriors were ready for anything. Keyed by three second-half defensive touchdowns, Woodson overwhelmed Dunbar, 44-12, to win its third consecutive DCIAA title.
Woodson (9-3) forced five Dunbar turnovers and held the Crimson Tide to 134 yards of offense, including just five on the ground. Twenty-three of Dunbar's 63 plays from scrimmage went for zero or negative yards, not including the Crimson Tide's 16 incomplete passes.
"It didn't really matter," said Woodson senior defensive back Ian Jackson, whose 86-yard interception return for a touchdown broke the game open late in the third quarter. "We could've played Dunbar in the first half and Ballou in the second half."
The game was played in the shadow of a weeklong D.C. Public Schools investigation that found Ballou had used an ineligible player in its semifinal victory over Dunbar, which forced the Knights to vacate their spot in the final. Ballou's appeal of the ruling was denied Wednesday afternoon.
Woodson Coach Greg Fuller lamented the difficulty of trying to prepare his team - either for Ballou's pass-heavy offense or Dunbar's skilled running game.
"We carried this team all the way," said senior defensive end DeJon Wilson, who had eight tackles, five for a loss, three sacks and an interception return for a touchdown, "and now we had to take it home."
Keyed by a 29-yard punt return by Adeboye Aromire, Woodson's first possession of the second half lasted only three plays, the last of which was a 15-yard touchdown pass from Terron Buchanan to Kenny Crawley to extend the Warriors' lead to 20-12.
Dunbar responded by putting together its best drive of the game, converting on three consecutive third downs before it faced second and 13 at the Woodson 19. Theodore Boone charged up the middle and hit Matthews as he released the ball and it wobbled into the hands of Jackson in the middle of the field.
"I saw daylight and I was gone," said Jackson, who raced 86 yards untouched for a touchdown that made it 26-12 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
Woodson's sideline took its cue from that play.
"That really changed the game around," Fuller said. "We got the momentum back after that."
Woodson poured it on late. Buchanan hit Darius Redman on a post pattern for a 40-yard touchdown with 1:52 to go. Two plays later, Woodson linebacker Chris Jones forced a fumble that Aromire returned 34 yards for a touchdown.
After Dunbar regained possession, Wilson intercepted a pass at the line of scrimmage and returned it 35 yards to close out the scoring with 1:12 to play.