H.D. Woodson’s coaches couldn’t punish seniors Jai Carson and Daijon Carson with sprints during preseason practices this summer, because they knew the brothers would run lap after lap around the school’s track after those sessions anyway. For the Carson brothers, the conditioning was a way to decompress after practices in 95-degree heat. They would talk about life and football during those runs. They would talk about being leaders on the team. And they would talk about having performances like Friday night’s against Dunbar.
Jai Carson rushed for 250 yards and Daijon Carson provided a second-half interception that set up the clinching touchdown, and H.D. Woodson took sole possession of first place in the DCIAA Stars division with a 22-13 win over Dunbar in Northeast.
“This is a big year for us,” said Jai Carson, who is 11 months older than his brother. “Every time I come to the sideline, [Daijon will say], ‘Jai you have to turn up. You have to turn up.’ ”
The senior running back took that advice to full heart Friday night for Woodson (5-3, 4-0). He turned up everywhere against Dunbar’s talented defense: up the middle, on the edge and even in the receiving game. Maybe what was most impressive was his durability; he carried 32 times just six days after rushing 26 times for 155 in a win over Wilson. Still, even after ripping off several runs for large gains against Dunbar (5-2, 3-2), he would look over to the sideline for his brother’s approval.
“Every time I look over to the sideline, [Daijon] be like shaking his head,” Jai Carson said.
It wasn’t until Daijon’s interception on the first play of the fourth quarter that Woodson had full control of the game. Down 14-13 and trying to mount a drive near midfield, the Crimson Tide attempted to set up a screen. The throw deflected off a shoulder pad and into the air, and Daijon Carson swooped in for the interception and returned it to the Dunbar 30. Several plays later, after Jai Carson had bear-crawled inside the 5, quarterback Rashad Cooper scored his second touchdown of the night and converted the two-point conversion on a pass to Tamonie Chambliss to make it 22-13.
“I just went up and grabbed the ball. I was running for the touchdown,” Daijon Carson said. “It was a good turnover for us.”
Woodson controls its own path to the DCIAA playoffs next month, but the Warriors had to overcome 13 penalties, three turnovers and two special teams blunders to win Friday night. The defense held Dunbar to fewer than 100 yards in the first half, though, and the Woodson coaches were able to rely on big plays from both the Carson brothers in the second half. They decided on a credo for the season during the summer runs, too.
“Every play like it’s your last play,” Daijon Carson said.