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DCIAA football preview

Defending champs Dunbar looks like team to beat

(Published August 23, 1999)

By MICHAEL NEWALL

Staff Writer

With the summer days fading quickly and fall creeping around the corner, the excitement of football has once again set upon the D.C. public high schools. The District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Associationís 11 teams are already well into their pre-season conditioning schedule and are gearing up for the upcoming season, which begins Aug. 28.

As the teams emerge from their summer camp programs, four schools are welcoming new head coaches to take over their respective programs. Changes include Anthony Belk at Coolidge, Charles Mckie at Phelps, Steve Powell at Spingarn and Gregory Fuller at H.D. Woodson.

The consensus around town is that Dunbar Senior High School, the defending DCIAA champions led by coach Craig Jefferies, will once again be the team to beat. With 16 starters from last yearís championship team returning, it is hard not to hold Dunbar as the favorite.

Coach Jefferies is at ease talking about his teamís chances to repeat.

"We definitely feel pretty comfortable going into the season. We have eight starters returning on both sides of the ball, four proven seniors anchoring the offensive line and our entire secondary is returning," Jefferies said.

Fullback James Lynch will once again lead the teamís offense. The highly recruited senior, who had 11 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,200 yards last year, has verbally committed to the University of Maryland despite being pursued by schools such as Temple, Nebraska, Missouri and South Carolina. Coach Jefferies explained Lynchís choice to attend Maryland as a desire to stay close to home.

The tailback position will be handled by committee with senior Jerome Bolling, who gained over 700 yards in 1998, and junior Octavious Williams, who gained over 500 yards in 1998, splitting the time.

Despite Lynchís big numbers, Coach Jefferies stressed that his team will be leading a more balanced offensive attack this season. "At wide receiver, Darrell Dowery is the fastest guy on our team and a big playmaker. He is extremely valuable because he can play at a few different positions with his speed and athleticism."

Coach Jefferies also has high expectations for senior transfer Steven Savoy. Savoy was a quarterback for Archbishop Carroll last year but will be used primarily as a receiver for Dunbar.

Junior Josh Cribbs will be taking over at quarterback this season with the departure of Lee Baker, who is now playing linebacker for Virginia Tech. However, Coach Jefferies does not expect any difficulties in the transition. "Josh was the backup quarterback for us last year and gained some valuable experience. Plus we won the DCIAA passing league this summer with him, so we feel very comfortable with him at the helm."

Senior linebackers Sirak Williams and Donald Shelton will be returning this season to lead Dunbarís defense. Coach Jefferies expects that Larry Brown (6-foot-2, 245 pounds), a junior transfer from Jefferson Junior High School, will provide some much-needed depth at the linebacker position.

Coach Jefferies knows there are some high expectations for his team this season but feels very comfortable as the favorite. "This team is a very experienced, focused and committed group of individuals who have a very strong taste for winning. It is our goal to be once again playing on Thanksgiving Day for the DCIAA championship."

Dunbar will be tested early in the season when they play defending Catholic league champs DeMatha (Sept. 4) and Virginia State 3A defending champs Hylton (Sept. 11). If Dunbar can emerge from these non-league contests in good health, the team will definitely be the favorite to repeat.

League-wise, Wilson High and Eastern offer the biggest threats to Dunbar. Senior running back Lawrence Wade will be returning for Eastern (7-5). Wade rushed for over 2,000 yards last season and carried the team into the playoffs. However, Coach Burnell Irby stressed that if his team is going to be successful this season, they will have to spread the offensive attack out more evenly.

"Bottom line is that we are going to have to throw the ball more or else teams will be able to focus primarily on Wadey and eventually they will be able to stop him," he said.

Irby expressed confidence in his all-senior receiving corps ó led by Calvin Corhan, Delante Penn Andrews and Alonzo Sanders. Eastern will also strongly benefit from the return of their two All Conference lineman, seniors Sherman Keith and Roger Roland.

Wilson High School ó always a strong, sound program ó will once again compete for the city title, being led by senior wide receiver Andre Wallace.

Roosevelt High School (8-5), losers to Dunbar in the championship game last season, will be severely weakened by the high amount of seniors that graduated last year. Coach Daryl Tilghman stated, "These guys are going into this season pretty green. We need to have some new starters assume leadership roles, but that will only come with experience."

Roosevelt will be strongly helped by junior quarterback Andre Brown, a transfer from Coolidge, and the return of All Conference running back senior Larry Graham.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator