Even after his teammates stood up to embrace one another, take photos with their parents and dump a celebratory ice-water bath on Coach Greg Fuller, Dixon remained on his back for a moment, processing the Warriors’ 18-12, overtime win over Ballou on Thursday in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association Turkey Bowl.
Woodson almost lost to Ballou for the second consecutive year, but it stuffed the Knights at the 1-yard line as time expired in regulation. After running back Christopher Roberts’s overtime touchdown run, Dixon’s interception sealed Woodson’s fifth Turkey Bowl title in six years and the DCIAA Stars division championship.
The Warriors (9-3) will play Friendship Collegiate or Wilson, which meet Saturday, in the D.C. State Athletic Association Class AA championship Dec. 1 at Catholic University.
“When I saw everybody chasing me, I knew it was real,” Dixon said.
Ballou beat Woodson by seven in last year’s Turkey Bowl, but 18 Woodson players were suspended from that game after engaging in an on-field fight the game before. That defeat was motivation during summer conditioning.
With about seven seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied Thursday, Ballou wide receiver Lavonte Gater ran a slant to the 1-yard line, and the Knights used their final timeout. Fuller installed a defensive look this week after noticing how effective Gater ran out of the backfield, so when the Maryland commitment received the final snap, Woodson used its new set to stuff him.
Since a season-opening three-game skid, Woodson has allowed just 7.3 points per game.
“I was so nervous,” Fuller said. “[Defense] has been our lifesaver.”
Roberts ran in a 24-yard touchdown on the second play of overtime. Ballou (6-6) reached the 6-yard line on its possession, and Dixon knew the Knights would try to pass to Gater. Dixon focused this week on eliminating Gater’s cuts, so when the wide receiver curled in to catch Aaron Penny’s throw, Dixon jumped in front of him and snagged the ball.
After the dogpile, Woodson players put on Turkey Bowl champion T-shirts over their jerseys and passed around the trophy to kiss it. A year after Woodson players suffered a demoralizing defeat, tears of joy streamed down many of their faces — including defensive lineman Joshua Lee, who said he prayed to his late father before the final play of regulation.
Security asked the Warriors to leave the field multiple times, but the players weren’t in a rush to get to Thanksgiving dinner, instead sticking around as long as possible to savor the moment they’ve been working for since last November.
“This,” Roberts said, “is one of the best feelings.”