Dunbar running back Malonta Patterson cruised up the sideline time after time during the Crimson Tide’s practice Wednesday night, finishing off runs against a ghost defense for the eighth practice in a row. A bye week has given Patterson and his teammates much needed rest. But Patterson had the look of a player who was tired of being on cruise control Wednesday, the look of running back itching to play against rival H.D. Woodson on Friday night.
“[The bye] was okay,” Patterson said. “I like to play.”
First place in the DCIAA Stars division will be on the line Friday night when the Warriors (4-3, 3-0) and Crimson Tide (5-1, 3-1) meet, and both teams are coming off emotional wins, a week apart. Woodson’s 35-18 win over Wilson last weekend is more fresh. Warriors Coach Steve Scott keep most of his players healthy in that contest — a tall order for the injury-depleted rosters around the division this fall — and he also has no obligation to remind them who they’re playing this week.
“We’re playing Dunbar for first place. That’s as simple as it gets,” Scott said. “If we win, we maintain first place. If we lose, we’re in a three-way tie for first place,” with Dunbar and Wilson.
Scott called it an “interesting match,” given how both teams are big and physical. H.D.Woodson rushed for over 200 yards against Wilson and Dunbar touts Patterson, who has rushed for nearly 700 yards in six games.
Scott is also intrigued by the gifted receivers at Dunbar, including brothers Delonte and Davon Matthews (37 catches combined and five touchdowns though five games) and James Duff, a Football Bowl Subdivision prospect who has three touchdown catches this season. That trio will face one of the best secondaries in the city Friday, as Woodson was able to produce three interceptions last week against Wilson.
“I believe it’s going to be a good challenge for us. I believe we’re going to come out on top because I believe our secondary, all of us are pretty good,” said Woodson corner DuWayne Johnson, who had a key interception last week. “I know they have some good receivers. . . we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Patterson isn’t worried about the layoff. The team has practiced nearly two weeks without playing a down — and it’s the second time this season that the Crimson Tide have had a bye. The 21-14 win over Anacostia two weeks ago was fueled by special teams, and Friday night, the emphasis is to get back to winning all three phases of the game. This is the type of matchup that warrants high expectations, Dunbar offensive lineman Darius Brown said.
“This will probably be the best game of the year, because it’s a big rivalry,” Brown said. “I expect to come out and play physical ball.”