Malont'a Patterson (3) will take on an improved Ballou team Friday night. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Dunbar cornerback Andre Morris didn’t hear a whistle, so while the ball was still rolling on the turf and every other player was standing around after a presumable forward pass to the flat fell incomplete, he ran after it. It was the second quarter of the Crimson Tide’s game against Coolidge, and Morris was on the prowl. He returned the fumble — which was ruled a lateral behind the line of scrimmage — 30 yards for a touchdown. On a few possessions later, he jumped a curl route and returned an interception 60 yards for a score in the 48-6 win over the Colts last week.

The touchdowns were a product of Morris paying attention to coaching at Dunbar. He is always being told to play to the whistle, to run out a play no matter what. And he’s constantly reminded to be aggressive in covering a quarterback throw after a three-step drop, which preceded his interception last Friday. Both of the plays were instinct, formed over time.

“[Turnovers were] all that we wanted to do. And that’s exactly what happened,” Morris said. “It was really big. It really affected us too.”

Dunbar (3-0) is right back where it expects to be — at the top of the DCIAA standings – with a key DCIAA matchup against upstart Ballou (3-1) looming Friday night at McKinley.

While the offense has been productive, the Crimson Tide is doing it with special teams and defense. Those are the units that Morris stands out on. He has been a three-year contributor to the defense in particular, cutting his teeth last year with a defense that allowed just 12.5 points per game last season, with three shutouts. Morris recorded his first defensive touchdown last season as well, a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Options.

The Stags talented senior class hopes to finish their careers by taking the title Good Counsel has held for four years. (Nathan Bickell for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

But the two plays that sparked a win Friday were new career highlight for Morris. The Crimson Tide defense has allowed just six points in three games, with one shutout. The unit has registered two touchdowns and a safety — and many of the players cross over to special teams, which has produced a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown and two kicks that were returned for scores (both by Malonta Patterson).

But Ballou will be arguably the toughest test to date. The Knights have been impressive in three wins — outscoring opponents 105-8 — and even caught some by surprise by causing problems for then No. 12 Douglass back on Sept. 13. Ballou trailed by just a touchdown at halftime in the eventual 21-0 loss, and while Coach Jason Lane said his team is uninterested in moral victories, the performance gave his kids confidence.

How Dunbar handles the Knights up front could end up being the key to Friday’s matchup. Ballou’s 6-foot-7, 250-pound Levon Livingston (10.5 sacks) and 6-foot-3 linebacker William Richardson (8.5 sacks) have been two of the best defensive players in the city this fall. There’s much more left to prove Friday, Lane said.

“Going into this game with Dunbar, what we’re playing against is tradition, we’re playing against one of the top teams in our league, we’re playing against a team that has a very good coaching staff,” Lane said. “What we tell our kids, pretty much is, “just do what you’ve been doing.’ ”