The Bell football players snuck behind Coach Daniel Tyson on their sideline with about a minute remaining Saturday afternoon and surprised him with a celebratory ice water bath.
Those players then embraced Tyson with hugs before counting down the final five seconds of the 47-0 win with their fans. When the scoreboard read zeros, and Bell had won its first District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association Gravy Bowl, the Griffins stormed Dunbar’s field in Northwest Washington and formed a dogpile near the 50 yard-line.
“The monkey’s off,” a Bell assistant coach yelled as he smiled and rose his arms into the air.
The Griffins could hardly contain their excitement after their victory over McKinley Tech. They’d been waiting to celebrate for five years.
Bell had lost four consecutive Gravy Bowls entering Saturday, but it’s headed to the District of Columbia State Athletic Association Class A championship against Kingsman Academy next week for the first time. Bell won the DCIAA Stripes division with Saturday’s victory, meaning it’ll move up to the Stars division next season.
“We’ve envisioned this for years,” Tyson said. “I can’t put into words how this feels.”
Bell (10-0) came close to this euphoria a year ago on the same field. But Theodore Roosevelt scored a touchdown on the final play to beat Bell, 13-12.
Tyson said he considered not returning to Bell for a 12th season. He wanted to give somebody else a chance. But Tyson returned, and so did one of Bell’s most talented teams. Led by quarterback Ronnell St. John, Bell is averaging 45.3 points per game. It hasn’t allowed a point since Sept. 14.
St. John admitted he felt pressure Saturday because of Bell’s history in the Gravy Bowl, but those nerves faded when he connected with wide receiver Jaymond Kelly for the game’s first touchdown late in the first quarter.
“I can’t explain this feeling,” St. John said after his three-touchdown performance.
The Griffins couldn’t wait to show off their title, so while McKinley Tech (6-4) accepted its second-place medallions, Bell players removed their pads and put on gray Gravy Bowl championship T-shirts. A group of teenagers wearing Theodore Roosevelt jackets watched from the bleachers.
“This joint feels so good,” Bell wide receiver Brenden Edwards said while putting on his attire.
“Everyone wear this to school Monday,” a player added while pointing to his shirt.
Bell assistant coaches tried to quiet down their players during McKinley Tech’s medal presentation, but they were eager to get their hands on the Gravy Bowl trophy. After Bell received its medals and posed for team photos, Tyson picked up the trophy and ran across the field at full speed, and his players followed him.
“I got to give that joint a kiss,” one player yelled while chasing the momento.
The players then settled down and knelt in an end zone to listen to Tyson’s life lesson.
“You might fail four times,” Tyson told his team. “But the fifth time, you get back up and win.”
About 10 minutes later, music had stopped playing over Dubar’s stadium speakers, but the Bell players and coaches were still spread out across the turf field, snapping photos with their medals and savoring their milestone as long as they could.