Part of Dunbar Coach Craig Jefferies' e-mail address is "4narow," a reference to the four consecutive D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association football titles the Crimson Tide won between 1998 and 2001. But the description only reflects one measure of the success of the Crimson Tide program.
Dunbar (8-2) advanced to its seventh consecutive Turkey Bowl game -- one shy of the record held by Anacostia -- with a 30-20 victory over host Ballou yesterday in the DCIAA semifinals. Dunbar will face H.D. Woodson, a 23-7 winner over Coolidge yesterday, on Thanksgiving day.
Dunbar continued to build on a legacy that includes not only the four straight Turkey Bowl wins, but a championship last year, after falling to H.D. Woodson in the 2002 title game.
"It is a pleasure," said Dunbar senior running back Yaqoob Thurston, who rushed 10 times for 81 yards and one touchdown yesterday. "You aren't guaranteed a trip to the Turkey Bowl, so it's a pleasure to go back."
Although Ballou has revived its once-struggling football program over the past five years, the Knights have had problems with Dunbar. Ballou suffered its 12th straight loss to the Crimson Tide, including twice in the championship game (2000 and 2003).
And when the Knights (6-6) look back on this game, they will remember the turning point. It came in the waning seconds of the third quarter, after Ballou -- trailing 15-12 -- had held the Crimson Tide on fourth and one at the Knights 44-yard line.
On the next play, Dunbar's Derrick Coleman intercepted a pass. It sparked an eight-play, 54-yard Crimson Tide drive -- aided by a Ballou personal foul -- capped by an 11-yard scoring run by junior running back Jerry Johnson with 8 minutes 59 seconds to play. The two-point conversion gave Dunbar a 23-12 lead.
"I had to get some type of turnover to help us keep the momentum," Coleman said. "I knew they only had one option, because there was only one running back in the backfield. So I . . . read my keys and got a jump on the ball."
Ballou responded with a 72-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Ron Green connected with Robert Dunn on a five-yard pass to cut the deficit to 23-18 with 5:12 remaining.
Ballou seemed to have stopped Dunbar on the next possession when sophomore quarterback Nathan Bussey connected with Arrelious Benn on an eight-yard pass on third and nine. But the Knights were called for a penalty, giving Dunbar a first down at the Ballou 29. Two plays later, Johnson got to the outside for a 29-yard touchdown and a 30-18 lead with 1:59 remaining.
Dunbar senior defensive back Sterling Goodwin intercepted a pass on Ballou's next possession. The Knights got their final points on a safety, when Dunbar's Bussey was tackled in the end zone with 21 seconds remaining.
In the second semifinal, H.D. Woodson (6-4) earned its third appearance in the Turkey Bowl in the past four years.
"We had three goals this season," said senior wide receiver Barry Scott, Jr. "We wanted to win the East Division and get into the Turkey Bowl. Now, it's time to take care of Dunbar."
The Warriors advanced behind strong defensive and special teams units that gave the offense solid field position throughout the game. In six games against DCIAA opponents this fall, the Warriors have allowed a total of 13 points.
H.D. Woodson's Michael Davis recovered a Coolidge fumble on the opening kickoff at the Colts 27. The Warriors took a 6-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Edward McGee.
Coolidge scored its lone points in the first half, after forcing an H.D. Woodson fumble. Antoine Cook capped a 30-yard drive with a three-yard run, giving Coolidge a 7-6 lead with 9:49 remaining in the second quarter. Just over four minutes later, however, McGee put Woodson back on top with a two-yard run that made it 14-7.
D'Ante Johnson had two fumble recoveries for Woodson and Scott made a 37-yard field goal.