All season, Lane had not mentioned to his players that the inaugural D.C. playoffs will include a second division – known as Class A – for teams that finish with better than a .500 record. The Knights are a young squad, and Lane had wanted to keep their attention on the most immediate task at hand, which was preparing for their next game.
On Friday, Ballou will play at McKinley (2-7), and a win would be more significant than it might have been in past seasons for squads struggling to finish with an even record. Lane knows that for some of his seniors, competing in a second-tier playoff division won’t resonate quite as strongly as would the opportunity to play for the top crown, but as the Knights’ first-year coach, it would give him a chance to further develop his program.
“It’s a goal to shoot for when you have a young team, in reference to building on something,” Lane said.
Lane also said, though, that he is deeply saddened for Ballou players such as senior tailback Daywone Wright, who won’t get an opportunity to compete in D.C.’s highest postseason level. Wright rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns in 21 carries Friday against Woodson. He has gained more than 800 rushing yards in six games this season, while also contributing on defense at outside linebacker and defensive back.
Wright’s statistics likely would be more eye-catching had he not been forced to miss three games due to three different injuries. For the latter part of the season, Wright has played through pain from a high ankle sprain, torn thumb ligaments and a thigh bruise that he suffered earlier in the fall.
While Lane said Wright does not have any college scholarship offers on the table, West Virginia, Marshall, Kent State and Ohio have shown interest.
“I’m just saddened that this kid plays so hard, and this year was probably his best chance of going to the playoffs,” Lane said. “He’s been at Ballou through the trying times of different incidents. . . . I just feel for the kid because we’re extremely young, and he was one of the senior leaders that helped carry this team.”
Avalon running back Rachid Ibrahim verbally committed to play football at the University of Pittsburgh earlier this month, but the momentous decision came at a time when he wasn’t playing particularly well on the high school field. Avalon (5-4) was in the middle of a two-game losing streak at the time (blowout losses to Bullis and John Carroll) and Ibrahim was running unremarkably.
That changed in a hurry. Ibrahim didn’t want to be remembered as a player who had one foot out the door his entire senior season of high school football. He has rushed for more than 881 yards in the last three weeks, and he ran for 360 yards and six scores in last week’s 46-45 win over Riverdale Baptist.
He had scoring runs of 2,1, 27, 2, 79 and 89, the latter two which came in the third and fourth quarters to help cement Avalon’s lead in a shootout that came down to a missed extra point by Riverdale Baptist.
“Getting back to the old ways. . . at a certain point I lost a little bit of focus and I was not having a productive season,” Ibrahim said. “I wanted to refocus. I took every practice and every rep serious, trying to take everything to the house.”
The wake-up call came a few weeks ago, when one of Avalon’s assistants got into Ibrahim’s face and told him to “stop playing sorry,” according to Ibrahim. “He said, I don’t care where you’re going to school or anything like that, the way you’re playing right now, no school would pick you up.”
The turnaround has been noticeable for Ibrahim. It was the second consecutive week he ran for over 300 yards against a quality opponent. Last week he amassed 324 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Potomac School, with two of his rushing touchdowns going for over 90 yards in the game.
Avalon Coach Tad Stevens remembers Ibrahim running for 298 yards and eight touchdowns in a game as a sophomore two years ago, but Friday night’s performance was “extraordinary,” Stevens said. It set a school record, and set the record straight on where Ibrahim’s head was heading into the final month of his high school career.
“I really took that to my head,” Ibrahim said. “I got focused and started getting after it.”
The Potomac School made some gutsy plays down the stretch to rally past Bishop Ireton 30-29 on Saturday. On fourth and five from the Bishop Ireton 15-yard line late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers got a 15-yard scoring run from Jalen Broome to pull Potomac School within 29-28 with just under two minutes to play. That’s when Pat Duffy initially thought to send out his kicking team to tie it and send it to overtime.
“We decided to go for the win right there,” Duffy said.
He called for a run to Broome off left tackle on the two-point conversion attempt, and Broome cashed in. That was the difference, and Broome had one of his most complete games of the season. He ran for 92 yards and three touchdowns, with two two-point conversion runs, and 48 yards receiving.
Broome has rushed for 304 yards the last three weeks for the Panthers (5-3), and complemented quarterback Kevin Havermann’s most productive game this fall (264 yards passing). The pivotal plays from Broome couldn’t have come at better times on Saturday, and the call from Duffy to win the game was one that gave Broome a reassuring respect for his coach’s guts, especially heading into this week’s season finale with rival Flint Hill (6-2). The winner will take home the Mid-Atlantic Conference title.
“They just trusted us to put it in. It was just, like, an all or nothing effort right there. We look up to our coaches, and trust them,” Broome said. “If they say we’re going for the win, we’re going for the win.”