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Warriors break Tide’s wave of championships

(Published December 2, 2002)

By DAVID STEINBACHER

Special to The Common Denominator

The H.D. Woodson Warriors scored early and often to defeat the Dunbar Crimson Tide, 19-3, for the 2002 DCIAA varsity football title, halting Dunbar’s bid for a record five consecutive Turkey Bowl victories.

The Thanksgiving Day game gave the Warriors their eighth D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association football championship and the first for second-year Head Coach Gregory Fuller, whose team fell 16-14 to Dunbar in last year’s title game. Woodson last won the city championship in 1997.

"We really played well today. Our defense, our offense and our special teams all contributed to this championship," Fuller said after the Nov. 28 game at Eastern High School’s stadium.

Junior running back Dajuan Stover returned the opening kickoff for a Woodson score to set the tone for the game. Stover caught the opening kickoff at his nine-yard line, cut up the center of the field, cut outside and then out-raced the Crimson Tide’s defenders to the end zone.

"That was a real big play. It really got us going," Stover said.

Following Dunbar’s punt on their opening possession of the game, Woodson flexed their offensive muscles and drove 72 yards on eight plays. The Warriors cashed in when senior quarterback Derric Daniels punched it in from four yards out.

The Crimson Tide’s only scoring came on a 21-yard drive in the second quarter that set up a 25-yard field goal by senior placekicker Julian Gray.

Turnovers turned the Tide more than once during the game. The Warriors threatened twice as a result of Dunbar miscues but failed to score again in the first half. Senior defensive back Brandon Dow intercepted a Dunbar pass at Woodson’s 41-yard line and junior defensive end William Walls recovered a Dunbar fumble on Woodson’s 20-yard line before Woodson headed to the locker room with a 12-3 halftime advantage.

The second half didn’t prove to be an offensive boon to Dunbar, either. After driving to the Woodson 19-yard line, Dunbar fumbled the ball away (recovered by Warrior sophomore safety Barry Scott). When they regained possession, Dunbar drove the ball 76 yards, for the Tide’s most productive effort of the contest.

However, junior quarterback Stadford Brown threw an interception to derail Dunbar’s best chance of the second half to get back into the game. Woodson senior defensive back Renaldo Russell made the interception at the goal line and returned it to the Woodson 10-yard line, putting a severe dent in Dunbar’s prospects for a comeback.

The Warriors then took advantage of Dunbar’s charity by marching 90 yards on 12 plays and scoring with 7:20 remaining in the fourth quarter when quarterback Daniels connected with senior wide receiver Joshua Morgan for an 11-yard touchdown pass into the right corner of the end zone. This time, sophomore Barry Scott converted the point-after-touchdown kick, after Woodson missed on its first two PAT attempts.

Dunbar still had three more offensive possessions in the late fourth quarter, but the Crimson Tide turned the ball over on downs, threw another interception (picked off by Warrior junior safety Donte Herrod), and then time ran out for Dunbar as the game clock expired.

"There wasn’t a whole lot that went right for us today. Woodson really played a good game," said Dunbar Head Coach Craig Jefferies.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator