It has taken only a few weeks for ninth-ranked Douglass to make an impression on its opponents. The Eagles are passing more than ever, but their hard-hitting defense remains the featured attraction.
Linebacker Greg Bowyer forced a fumble deep in his own territory late in the first half, then made a key block on Deago Washington's 52-yard return of the second-half kickoff. That led to Marcus Barnett's 22-yard touchdown catch, and host Douglass held on for a 12-0 victory over No. 19 C.H. Flowers in a meeting of previously undefeated teams before an overflow crowd of 2,000 yesterday in Upper Marlboro.
Having beaten No. 13 Suitland, the Maryland 4A champion, Douglass seems to be the team to beat after moving this season to the Prince George's 4A league from the county's 3A/2A league. The Eagles have outscored opponents by a combined 128-14, but their players have larger goals.
"Nothing is established until we win a championship," Barnett said. "Every game is the game of the week for us."
The Eagles (4-0, 4-0 league) certainly hit like every game is meaningful. It was Bowyer and Marcus Perrin who jarred the ball from a Flowers runner late in the first half, stopping the Jaguars' best scoring chance. Then, on the second-half kickoff, Washington raced up the middle through a hole created by a loud thwack from Bowyer.
Douglass likes to rely on its option running game. But with Flowers holding its own on the line of scrimmage, quarterback Davon Gray lofted a pass to Barnett near the goal line on the right side.
"Marcus is an incredible athlete," Gray said. "My coach says whenever Marcus is on a seam route and he is one-on-one with somebody, just throw it up, and he'll catch it. That's what I did."
Gray finished 8 of 17 for 104 yards with two interceptions, though he left the game in the third quarter because of a right hip pointer. The Eagles continued throwing the ball some even after Gray went out -- their 20 pass attempts yesterday would account for a season's worth of passes in previous years.
"They were holding us on the run a little bit, so we had to put the ball in the air," Barnett said.
Flowers (3-1, 3-1) entered averaging 42 points per game, with Raphael Johnson leading a potent rushing offense. While the Jaguars were able to move the ball at times yesterday, they failed to finish their opportunities. Johnson, who had rushed for at least 100 yards in every game this season, was held to 67 yards on 14 carries.
Defense "is what we focus on here," said Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney, whose team has allowed two touchdowns this season. "We know the importance of tackling and not giving up points. This week of practice wasn't our best, so we were pretty concerned what we were going to look like. But they stepped it up on game day. I'm super proud of the guys."