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Payne, Woodson Win 2013 Turkey Bowl Championship

Warriors Win 11th Turkey Bowl Title

Elton J. Hayes | 11/30/2013, 7:41 p.m.
H.D. Woodson Head Coach Steve Scott hoists the Turkey Bowl trophy after Thursday’s victory. Woodson defeated Wilson 25-13 to win the 2013 Turkey Bowl at Eastern Senior High School in Northeast. Photo by John DeFreitas

When H.D. Woodson High School started its season in late August, D’Andre Payne watched as a spectator. District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) officials ruled him ineligible after issues surrounding his District residency surfaced.

Fortunately for Payne and Woodson, DCPS officials reinstated him after just three weeks. The dynamic playmaker never looked back and helped Woodson earn its first Turkey Bowl berth in three seasons.

Payne helped power Woodson past Woodrow Wilson High School in the 44th annual Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving Day as the Warriors captured their 11th Turkey Bowl title.

“It just feels good, man,” Payne, a senior wide receiver, said after Thursday’s win. “We came out today, we worked hard all year, and it finally paid off.”

Both Woodson – located in Northeast – and Wilson – located in Northwest – suffered disqualification from play last season for rules violations due to player ineligibility. Woodson head coach Steve Scott said the incident gave his team all the motivation it needed to come out this year and leave last year’s adversity behind as nothing more than a footnote on the school’s illustrious football history.

“These kids have worked hard to get to this point,” said Scott, who replaced former Woodson head coach Greg Fuller last season. “We had a sour taste in our mouth from last year. We started preparing for this day in January.”

Bundled up in coats and blankets, and hats and gloves to keep warm, students, parents and fans braved the blustery mid 30-degree temperatures and trickled into Eastern High School’s stadium, located in Northeast, well before the 11 a.m. kickoff to secure seating.

Prominent alumni of both schools walked around the track before the game and mingled with the host of District officials who included District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and city council member and Wilson alumna Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7).

Woodson scored first on a 1-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Rashad Cooper, which was met by a collective cheer from the legion of Woodson fans who filled the stadium’s aluminum bleachers.

Payne ignited the Woodson crowd after intercepting Wilson quarterback Scott Beumel’s pass in the second quarter, which set up a 10-yard touchdown scamper by Woodson senior running back Jai Carson.

But it was Payne’s second-half performance that proved too much for the Wilson defense.

With just a six-point lead late in the third quarter, Cooper dropped back in the pocket and rifled a pass to Payne. Payne snagged the football from the air, cut upfield and streaked past Wilson’s defenders as he dashed 60 yards for a touchdown.

While Thursday’s Turkey Bowl wasn’t his first, Payne said it will likely be his most memorable.

“It feels good. I won [a Turkey Bowl title] in ninth grade, and lost in the playoffs in my 10 and 11th-grade years. It feels great to come out my senior year and just win it,” said Payne, who earned Turkey Bowl Most Valuable Player honors for his performance.

Payne, who is headed to Knoxville, Tenn., next year to play for the Tennessee Volunteers, finished the day with 91 yards receiving and a touchdown on offense. He also snagged an interception on defense and electrified the crowd with an awe-inspiring 25-yard punt return that put Woodson in position to score its fourth and final touchdown of the contest.

With the win, Woodson is set to face the winner of the D.C. State Athletic Association title game between Northeast schools Friendship Collegiate Academy and McKinley Technology High School. Players from Friendship Collegiate attended Thursday’s game to scout their competition.

For now, Woodson players and Scott, who was doused with water following the victory, are just enjoying the moment.

“I told my coaches to make sure they dumped the water, but I guess they failed me, he said with a laugh. [Football] is the ultimate team sport and the ultimate prize is a championship. So that is what this is all about – winning a championship. And we just won another one.”