Coolidge had been here before. Three weeks ago, in the regular season finale against Theodore Roosevelt, the Colts trailed by 13 points but rallied to win behind junior running back Dwan Thornton.

So, in yesterday's D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game at Eastern High, Coolidge didn't panic when it fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter against Dunbar. The Colts gave the ball to Thornton.

As he had against Roosevelt, when he had 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a 33-19 win, Thornton ran Coolidge back into yesterday's game. In the second quarter, he took the ball around the right end and out-raced the defense for a 13-yard touchdown.

Moments later, after Coolidge had intercepted, Thornton split a gaping hole in the center of the Dunbar defense and scored from 28 yards. The Colts led 14-13 at halftime.

In the end, however, Thornton (165 yards, two touchdowns) wasn't enough against Dunbar, whose 43-14 victory gave them a third straight Turkey Bowl title -- and seventh in eight years.

"He's a special kid," Coolidge Coach Jason Lane said. "He played his heart out. It takes a team effort within the scheme of football [to win]. One player really can change the course of the game, but one player can't take over the game and become victorious."

Thornton aside, the Coolidge offense managed only 54 yards passing and committed five turnovers against Dunbar, which it beat, 27-26, on Oct. 21.

But there were other bright spots for Coolidge, which loses only three seniors and should be a threat to return to the DCIAA title game next season.

Junior lineman Marvin Austin, a 6-foot-3, 300-pounder already at age 16, consistently disrupted the Dunbar offense yesterday, making 10 tackles -- including three for losses -- from his nose guard position. At his guard position on offense, he helped open holes for Thornton, who finished the season with 1,854 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns.

"I think he had a [heck] of a game," Thornton said of Austin, one of 20 juniors on the Coolidge team. "He's very important, a key factor."

If Thornton and Austin and the rest of the Colts make it back, Dunbar Coach Craig Jefferies won't be surprised.

"Coming across the field [at the end of the game]," Lane said, "Coach Jefferies said 'See you next year,' so I'm pretty sure he knows we're going to put them to work to try and get back to this game and have a different outcome."