When the 50th Turkey Bowl was over, after the Dunbar players were done dancing and celebrating, after they had carried the jersey of their fallen captain once more to midfield, after the remaining crowd at Eastern High had chanted “Bink,” the coach’s old nickname, as the Crimson Tide walked off with a title plaque, sophomore linebacker Marquez Minor tried to put Dunbar’s 21-12 win over H.D. Woodson into perspective.

“It’s just amazing,” Minor said. “All of those nights that we wanted to quit or be lazy and coach pushed us to keep striving for greatness all feels worth it now.”

Minor was a huge part of the Crimson Tide’s win in the Turkey Bowl, the championship of the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Stars Division. The game’s MVP was a force from sideline to sideline, recording eight tackles and a pass breakup.

The win sends Dunbar (10-2) into next weekend’s D.C. State Athletic Association AA title game against the Friendship Collegiate-Carroll winner. But to hear Coach Maurice Vaughn tell it, Thursday’s win was the prize his players eyed since summer workouts.

“The feeling is indescribable,” Vaughn said. “I know we have a game next week, but for me and the other D.C. public school fans this is the big one. This is the one that we spent our whole life dreaming of.”

Vaughn was dealt a tragic hand over the summer when one of his captains, Ahkii Washington-Scruggs, was killed in July. Vaughn used the tragedy as fuel for his team, which brought his jersey to midfield before each game along with the rest of the Crimson Tide’s captains.

They completed the ritual once more Thursday. Then the Tide’s defense, which for much of the season had played in the shadow of an explosive offense, went to work. It recorded six pass breakups and held the Warriors (7-5) to just 2 of 9 on third-down conversions.

Early in the second quarter, linebacker Jesse Jackson forced a fumble that was scooped up by linebacker Daequan Harvin and returned 39 yards for a 6-0 Dunbar lead. From there, senior running back DaCian Jenkins and the Tide offense rewarded the defense’s hard work by punching in two short-yardage touchdowns and tacked on a field goal for a 21-0 lead into the fourth quarter.

“Seeing dudes on defense get a touchdown gets the whole team lit, man,” said quarterback Amonte Dreher, the Stars Division MVP. “On offense we didn’t get it done today, but the ‘D’ held it down.”

After a 2-8 season in 2017, Vaughn, a Dunbar alum and former assistant at Wilson, started fresh, rebuilding a program steeped in D.C. football history. Thursday’s win was Dunbar’s 11th Turkey Bowl title.

“After we went 2-8 that first year, a lot of people thought that we should’ve been better and they started to doubt me and my staff, but I just kept preaching to the guys that they just need to keep trusting the process,” Vaughn said. “This was always a three-year process in my mind, and now look — in Year 3 here we are.”