Dunbar 43, Coolidge 14
Vontae Davis was not open by much. But as soon as Dunbar High's talented senior caught the ball in the left flat and turned upfield, it was clear this play had potential. The Crimson Tide found plenty of big plays yesterday, but Davis's 87-yard catch-and-run midway through the third quarter was the biggest, leading Dunbar to a 43-14 victory over Coolidge in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game.
Quarterback Nathan Bussey finished with five touchdown passes, two to standout wide receiver Arrelious Benn, as the Crimson Tide (9-2) won its third consecutive Turkey Bowl and seventh in eight years before 6,000 at Eastern High.
Not that celebrating another championship gets boring, but Dunbar Coach Craig Jefferies and his players said this one was particularly memorable because of the opponent. It was Coolidge that beat Dunbar during the regular season, ending the Crimson Tide's eight-year winning streak during the regular season in league play.
"To be honest, it was in the back of my mind, the way they put it in our face and they were division champs," Jefferies said. "It felt uncomfortable being on that side."
And for a few moments yesterday, it appeared Dunbar might be on the losing side again. Trying to win its first DCIAA title since 1986, Coolidge rallied from an early 13-0 deficit to lead 14-13 at halftime behind running back Dwan Thornton's two touchdown runs.
But in a 75-second span of the third quarter, things changed. After picking up a first down inside the Dunbar 10-yard line, Coolidge standout Wayne Ouzts lost a fumble and was sidelined for the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury.
Three plays later, on third and two from the 13, the Colts were in position to force a punt and get the ball in good field position. However, Davis just got open on his pattern and pulled in Bussey's short pass. Although a defender was within reach, Davis sped up and turned to his right for more yardage. He seemed hemmed in around the 30-yard line, but somehow slipped between two defenders and then raced for a touchdown that gave Dunbar a 21-14 lead.
"I knew one of our big players had to make a play," Davis said. "It swung the momentum."
The Crimson Tide's stars were not done. Bussey threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Isiah Thomas early in the fourth quarter to make it 29-14. Then, out of punt formation on fourth and eight, Bussey threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Benn to push Dunbar's lead to 37-14. Bussey finished 11 of 20 for 279 yards; he also threw a pair of two-point conversion passes to Benn, ran for a two-point conversion and kicked an extra point.
On defense, Benn moved from his customary safety position to linebacker as the Crimson Tide tried to better defend Thornton (31 carries for 165 yards). Benn delivered some big hits that included a key fourth-down sack and a forced fumble. Davis intercepted a pass.
Benn, Bussey and company even completed a task their predecessors had not, successfully dumping a cooler of ice and water on Jefferies as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"I dumped the water out," Jefferies said. "But they tricked me. They found a cooler."
As Dunbar's players celebrated and mugged for pictures, Coolidge Coach Jason Lane remained upbeat about a 9-3 season that resulted in the school's second playoff berth in 17 years.
"I'm not disappointed," Lane said. "I'm more excited because we brought back a lot of spirit for the school."