The chorus got louder and louder in the bowels of Cardozo’s football stadium Saturday, with Wilson’s team chanting in unison, “Turkey, Turkey, Turkey,” and banging on metal lockers after a District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association Stars division semifinal win against Dunbar.
Senior linebacker Acey Calhoun had to collect himself before he entered. He took off his helmet, exposing bleached blonde hair and a pair of eye strips emblazoned with the words “Turkey Bowl.” Calhoun had waited a year for this celebration to happen, as had so many others.
“That’s where we wanted to be at,” Calhoun said, nodding to his eye strips, “so why not think like that?”
The senior linebacker led a stellar defensive effort, and senior quarterback Scott Beumel threw for 182 yards and a touchdown to lift the Tigers past the Crimson Tide, 20-14, and into the annual Thanksgiving Day DCIAA title game. Wilson will meet H.D. Woodson, which got past Ballou, 20-12, in the second semifinal.
Beumel had seen this celebration before, too. A year ago to the week, he was in the same locker room with his teammates, celebrating a win over Anacostia that clinched the first Turkey Bowl appearance for the school since 1991. But the Tigers never made it to Thanksgiving morning. A few days after the win over the Indians, a District of Columbia Public Schools investigation revealed the use of an ineligible player .
“This was for this year’s team,”Beumel said. “But this is also for last year’s team, all those seniors that didn’t get a chance to play in the Turkey Bowl. So we got back there for them.”
The Tigers (9-3) got back there with the precision of Beumel, who completed nine of his first 10 passes, and a defense that rarely let the Crimson Tide (6-4) get comfortable. Wilson owned a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter after a pair of short touchdown runs by Larry Frazier and Abdul Adams, and it could have been much uglier had Dunbar’s Davon Matthews not returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter. The Crimson Tide fumbled six times, losing three — including two in the red zone.
Beumel found Dewayne Shorter III for a 14-yard touchdown with seven seconds left in the half to make it 20-6, and even after Dunbar had whittled the lead to 20-13 on a Malonta Patterson five-yard run late in the third quarter, it still needed to get past the Tigers’ defense in the fourth. It didn’t happen. Calhoun and company stopped Dunbar’s advances inside the Wilson 30-yard line with just under three minutes to play and did it again near midfield as time expired to preserve the win, the third over Dunbar this season. This one, though, was the one that counted.
“It hurt,” Calhoun said of being disqualified from last year’s game. “And then for the score to be 20-14, our graduating class [number], it feels great. And then to beat our rivalry team three times in one year? It doesn’t get better than that.”
The Warriors (9-3) have won eight straight, but two weeks after beating the Knights, 50-0, they struggled to a scoreless tie at halftime.
Carson got Woodson on the board with 5 minutes 14 seconds left in the third quarter on a nine-yard touchdown run, and Cooper’s one-yard sneak made it 14-0 early in the fourth.
Ballou (6-6) pulled within one score on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Tirri Jones to Dewayne Owens with 10 minutes to play, but Woodson preserved its lead by chewing up five minutes of clock on the ensuing possession, capped by a four-yard plunge by Carson.
With the win, the Warriors earned a Turkey Bowl berth for the first time since 2010.