After Wilson’s bus was late to arrive at Cardozo High for a neutral site showdown with Dunbar on Friday night, the team frantically filed into the stadium and began gearing up on the sideline. Bags and equipment were scattered across the track. It wasn’t until 15 minutes before kickoff that the entire Wilson roster was on the field warming up, and by that point, their opponent had been running pregame drills for more than an hour.
But the Tigers were fashionably late in more ways than one in their final regular season game, including an 80-yard kickoff return from Travon Parker in the final minutes that saved Wilson in a thrilling 20-13 win.
“I seen a hole, and I squirted through,” said Parker of his game-winning return. “I got the nice block I needed to finish off that run off. . . . We needed that after that big play Dunbar had.”
The win clinched the DCIAA West division title for Wilson (7-3), and it was hard-earned. Jeremy Dixon ran for 127 yards and a touchdown on a night when the Tigers didn’t complete a pass. In addition, they had their defense pushed to the limit by Dunbar quarterback Lamal Matthews, who threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns — both of which went to his brother, Delonte Matthews.
Dixon was terrific and was equally as elusive as he was punishing to Dunbar’s defense. His six-yard touchdown made it 12-6 in the second quarter, and on the next possession, he ripped off a 16-yard run across midfield. Dunbar took out its frustration with a late hit on Dixon near the sideline on the play, which sparked a minor brawl for several moments.
“You seen the brawl we had? When they pushed me out . . . it’s all about us,” said Dixon. “We just came to play.”
The Matthews siblings hooked up on a 52-yard bomb with just under five minutes remaining in the game, which gave the Crimson Tide (6-2) a 13-12 advantage. But Parker, who had dangerously hinted at a big play earlier in the game when he nearly broke open another kickoff return — fielded the ball at the 20 and immediately found a seam on the right side. Dunbar’s sideline watched in disbelief, and the coaching staff was flagged 15 yards (the team’s third personal foul of the night) for a confrontation with the official. Dunbar finished the night with nine penalties for 90 yards and had seven dropped passes.
Following Parker’s return, Matthews drove Dunbar inside Wilson territory, but on fourth and long he threw a desperation heave that was intercepted near the 20-yard line by Khalil West.
“It’s in a game, at a better place, last game of the season, between two undefeated teams in the West, against Dunbar, my last season of high school,” said Parker. “This is one of the biggest W’s of my life.”