It seems every time No. 5 Dunbar is set to make its mark in history, Ballou is cast in the role of spoiler. But so far, the four-time defending D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association champion Crimson Tide has managed to avoid the upset, which it did again yesterday with a 22-0 victory over the host Knights in a DCIAA semifinal.
Two years ago, Dunbar (10-1) captured its third title with a 35-12 victory over Ballou, which allowed the Crimson Tide to keep alive its prospects for a record five consecutive championships. In 1992, Dunbar earned its first Turkey Bowl title with a 23-12 victory over the Knights (5-5).
Yesterday, Dunbar won a penalty-marred game in which it committed nine infractions for 80 yards. It overcame the mistakes on the strength of junior running back Lavron Hines, who rushed for 152 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, and the defense -- led by linebackers Samal Crawford and Craig Gilbeaux -- which held Ballou to 140 total yards in posting its sixth shutout.
"Whenever we play Ballou, it is always tough," Dunbar Coach Craig Jefferies said. "It's always difficult to keep players focused after we had beaten them earlier in the season [47-0]. But we were able to jump on them early and manage to win."
Senior fullback Kevin Johnson sealed the victory for Dunbar when he blocked a Ballou punt, picked it up and stumbled for a 24-yard touchdown and a 22-0 lead with 7 minutes 2 seconds to play. It was a bit of redemption for the 5-foot-11 Johnson, who had fumbled on Dunbar's preceding possession.
"I was just so focused to make something happen after I fumbled," Johnson said. "I knew that I could beat my man to the punter. So when I got the ball, I just kept telling myself to stay with it and score."
Dunbar got off to a sluggish start, committing four penalties for 20 yards on its first possession. The Crimson Tide began its subsequent drive at the Ballou 24-yard line after its special teams blocked a punt.
Senior running back Anthony Maynard rushed three times to move the ball to the 4-yard line. Hines then ran off left tackle for the touchdown and scored on the two-point conversion run to give Dunbar an 8-0 lead with 3:37 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
"We felt real confident in our running game," said Hines, who was forced to handle nearly all of the duties after Maynard was forced out of the game by a sprained ankle in the second quarter.
Despite gusting winds, junior quarterback Stadford Brown connected with Marcelle Stover on a 24-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the first quarter. The Knights' defense managed to hold Dunbar for the rest of the half, but three turnovers -- all on fumbles -- kept Ballou out of the end zone.
In the second half, Ballou squandered its best scoring opportunity when it was unable to score from the Dunbar 18-yard line.
"Turnovers hurt us," Ballou Coach Noel Cyrus said. "Football is all about making plays, and we didn't. Dunbar made the plays."
The Crimson Tide now is headed to its fifth consecutive Turkey Bowl with a chance to make history. As the clock expired, the Dunbar players began to sense the moment.
"It's our destiny for us to win.," said Craig Gilbeaux, who is one of eight Dunbar players who has played on three championship teams. "It feels good to be going back to the championship. This is a special year for us."