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Ballou challenges
Shutout launches Knights' quest for the crown
(Published November 3, 2003)

By DAVID STEINBACHER
Special to The Common Denominator

It didn’t take long for the Ballou Knights to get on the scoreboard and dominate the outmanned Spingarn Green Wave Oct. 31, rolling up a 36-0 shutout victory on their way to a season finale Nov. 7 that will decide if the Knights can dethrone the defending DCIAA champion H.D. Woodson Warriors.

Going into the contest, which also will be a delayed homecoming game for Ballou, both teams have identical 3-0 records in league play atop the East Division of the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association. Woodson’s overall record stands at 6-2, while Ballou is 6-4.

"To beat H.D. Woodson, we’re going to have to be able to stop their run, and we’re going to have to go out there and play our game," Knights’ Head Coach Noel Cyrus said after his squad defeated the less-experienced Spingarn team.

Meanwhile, the Warriors – who easily captured a 31-14 homecoming victory Nov. 1 against Friendly High School – face an unexpected end-of-season problem that threatens to invalidate some of their victories. DCIAA officials are investigating allegations that an ineligible player, who has not been publicly identified, has taken the field for Woodson.

Woodson Head Coach Gregory Fuller denied the allegations on Nov. 2. "We got all of our paperwork in and it was approved by the Athletics Department," Fuller told The Common Denominator. He declined to comment further on the investigation.

In the Ballou-Spingarn contest on Oct. 31, the Knights took the lead for good when sophomore quarterback Nico Scott connected with senior wide receiver Jacqua Pinkard on an early first quarter 47-yard touchdown pass.

"Nico is very good. He’s only going to get better. He makes great decisions out there," said Ballou offensive coordinator Darious Bowman.

Before the first quarter ended, Ballou led Spingarn 18-0 and never looked back.

"We’ve only had our complete team together for the past two games," Ballou Coach Cyrus said. "When we got some kids back from suspension, we’ve played very well lately."

John "Peterbug" Matthews, in his first year at the helm of Spingarn’s varsity football squad, had high praise for his team’s opponents. Spingarn was forced to forfeit its early-season games, while building a varsity team made up primarily of freshmen and sophomores this year.

"We’ve got a very young team," Matthews said. "Ballou is a very good team and organization. It’s hard for this team right here at Spingarn to be able to compete against organizations like Ballou has."

Spingarn senior center/noseguard Sherman Taylor summed up his team’s performance this way: "They would score and our team would kind of put its head down. We’re going to have to play a lot better next week."

The Knights’ first miscue didn’t occur until early in the second quarter when they fumbled the ball away from the Spingarn 21 yard line – recovered by Green Wave freshman defensive lineman Quincy Porter.

Despite getting the early Christmas present, Spingarn turned the ball back over to Ballou three plays later via an interception picked off by Knight junior cornerback Brandon Fullard. It took only two plays for the Knights to blow the game wide open. Junior running back James Martin ripped off 28 yards on first down. Fellow junior running back James Richardson scored off of the left side from 13 yards out to make the score 24-0.

"Give the offensive line [David Pride, Jamal Grantham, Pierre Thompson, Alan Richardson, Darrell Miller] a lot of credit. In addition, James Martin blocks real well too," Richardson said.

Ballou offensive coordinator Bowman called the series an example of the Knights’ thunder-and-lightning offense.

"Martin is kind of a fullback. Richardson is pretty much a tailback. We call James Martin our ‘thunder’ and we call James Richardson our ‘lightning,’" Bowman said.

Before the teams headed to the halftime break, Ballou led Spingarn 36-0.

For the game, Ballou scored on six of its nine offensive possessions and Spingarn punted (or attempted to punt) on six separate occasions. The Green Wave turned the ball over on downs once, threw an interception and had the clock run out on them on their final possession of the game. Spingarn amassed only 82 yards of total offense against Ballou’s 394 yards.

"I thought we were going to be ready for this game. It’s not an overnight thing getting a new attitude pumped into the players after last season’s coaching change," said Spingarn offensive coordinator Lecount Fantroy. Fantroy’s son, Lecount Jr., happens to be a defensive back for Ballou, but the younger Fantroy was out with an injury and did not play against his father’s team.

Spingarn junior quarterback Thomas Hughes was sacked several times during the game.

"We made too many mistakes today. We’re going to have to come ready to practice this next week," Hughes said.

Ballou’s running game was powered by Richardson (seven carries/106 yards/two touchdowns), Martin (six carries/57 yards) and Scott (two carries/17 yards/one touchdown). In addition, Scott threw for 194 yards on the day.

"Our defense held up very well today," said Ballou junior defensive back Dunn – who not only recorded a number of tackles, but also scored the game’s final touchdown from his tight end position.

Springarn Coach Matthews considers this season to be a building year for his young team.

"We need some people to step up that want to play. Spingarn used to have a very good football program. This program can work if we put enough time and effort into the program," Matthews said.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator