Crimson Tide Fends Off Indians 12-8
Visibly frustrated, Anacostia quarterback DeQuan Turner trudged over to his team's sideline in the third quarter. He just coughed up the ball on a fumble at Dunbar's 19-yard line, and stalled a nine-play, 62-yard drive. With points at a premium in the game, Turner knew the mistake could prove costly.
Anacostia head coach Cato June walked the young player over to one of the team's aluminum benches, pulled him close and whispered a few words into his ear. June then patted his quarterback's shoulder pads and walked away.
"I told him to just believe," said the first-year head coach. "Part of your job as a head coach is to be a motivator. I told him to just believe that we were going to win. I told him to be the one [player] who was going to be the hero."
Turner would get that opportunity a quarter later, but watched as it slipped away. Facing fourth-and-one at Dunbar's two-yard line, Turner took the snap from center, rolled to his right and heaved the football in Don'Tae Lee's direction as Lee sprinted toward the right corner of the end zone. The spirited Anacostia crowd fell silent as Turner's pass, and Anacostia's last chance to win, sailed over Lee's outstretched hands and bounced on the turf.
Dunbar defeated Anacostia 12-8 on Thursday, Nov. 22 at Eastern High School in Northeast to capture the 2012 District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) Varsity Football Championship. Anacostia replaced disqualified Wilson High School last weekend when District of Columbia Public Schools officials discovered that a Wilson player lived in Maryland, following the player's arrest. Wilson defeated Anacostia 40-20 on Nov. 10 in the DCIAA semifinals.
While Anacostia didn't boast the same regular season record and semifinal victory as Wilson, Dunbar head coach Jerron Joe, 25, didn't take his new opponent for granted.
"I knew going into this game that [Anacostia] plays extremely hard," Joe said. "They're a well-coached team. I informed my guys that regardless of the circumstances with everything going into the Turkey Bowl, they still need to play hard. It's just great how resilient my guys were today."
Dunbar, which played in its third straight Turkey Bowl, struggled early in Anacostia territory against the Indians' defense. It took the Crimson Tide offense three trips before it scored its first points. Dunbar quarterback Lamal Matthews connected with James Duff for a nine-yard touchdown pass with 8:48 remaining in the second quarter to give Dunbar a 6-0 lead after an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt.
Matthews, a senior, ended the game with 182 yards through the air and a touchdown while adding another 60 on the ground. Dunbar's fiery leader earned Offensive Player of the Game honors for his championship-worthy performance.
"To end this way, feels great," said Matthews after Thursday's game. "We weren't really paying too much attention [to] the situation with Wilson. We didn't pay it any mind. We knew that we played our way here. But to go out with a championship in my senior year, feels great."
With the disqualification of Wilson, Anacostia coaches had to quickly assemble a game plan on short notice. But the Indians appeared ready to play.
Turner finished the Turkey Bowl with 202 passing yards and a touchdown and 74 yards rushing. Turner's favorite target, wide receiver Tyray Johnson, snagged seven catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
June, who was hired to revive a listless football program, hopes that Thursday's Turkey Bowl appearance is just the first of many.
"You really can't put into words, the feeling that you have when you're out there playing in the Turkey Bowl," said June, 33, who played on the Anacostia team that defeated Dunbar in the 1995 Turkey Bowl. "I want this team to understand and feel what it's like to be a winner. Now that they've tasted and felt it, it means something. And they'll remember that. I'm just proud of the way they represented Anacostia and Southeast."