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A Wild Week in DCIAA Football

Looking back on the perhaps the most riveting weekend of regular season football in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association in several years, observers were left to ponder the impact of two notable outcomes: Ballou’s 14-8 triumph over defending-champion H.D. Woodson, and Wilson’s 14-12 stunner over Coolidge.

Both results gave more credence to the fact that the DCIAA has more parity this season than any in recent memory. For years, outsiders have panned the league for its competitive imbalance, and question the strength of its champion because it seldom gets challenged in the regular season.

Some coaches have lamented the DCIAA does not have the depth of top-level talent it has had in recent years, nor does it tout a team that will be considered one of the Washington area’s elite. Perhaps, though, a year in which the league shows its competitive depth might be the best thing to happen for the DCIAA’s overall reputation.

“I’ve got a no-name gang here, and that’s what we like,” Ballou Coach Moe Ware said. “We’re not getting into name-dropping. We just need to win this week and then look at next week. It’s a lot easier that way.”

Wilson threw the biggest wrench into any DCIAA prognostications with its victory over Coolidge. Running behind senior linemen Greg Cunningham and Ibrahima Kebe, senior running back Brian Glover rushed for a season-high 180 yards, pushing his season total to 808, which leads the DCIAA. The Tigers also held Coolidge, perhaps the league’s most explosive offense to just 169 yards and one offensive touchdown.

“Well, now you’ve got five teams to think about instead of four,” Tigers Coach Horace Fleming deadpanned.

Unlike prior years, where most DCIAA league results can be correctly predicted before the opener, this season has shown no result establishes a strong precedent. Consider this: Coolidge beat Ballou, 27-26, and then lost to Woodson, 24-13. That made Ballou’s victory over Woodson last week plenty surprising. Similarly, Wilson lost three of its first four games (including two by shutout), yet overwhelmed perhaps the most explosive offense in the DCIAA in its victory over Coolidge last week.

It was tough not to be impressed by Ballou’s defensive performance against Woodson, as the Warriors were limited to 208 yards of offense. Furthermore, the Knights’ play down the stretch was even more notable, given that Woodson controlled the ball for 17 ½ minutes in the second half – when teams are supposed to be tiring. Ballou was in the face of Warriors quarterback Ricardo Young all night, and pressured him unlike any local opponent has so far.

Even with all the terrific skill-position players consistently cranked out by the DCIAA, league coaches always say the most critical component of a successful team is strong line play on both sides. Usually, the two teams in the Turkey Bowl have the league’s best line play. Ballou showed it might have the city’s best this season with the way the Knights pushed around a very talented Woodson team.

The Knights showed Woodson a 3-4 defense, and the line of Mike Pearson, Lamonte Clark and Tavon Scott, seemed to have little trouble penetrating Woodson’s beefy line. And when they did, Young had to hurry his throws, which wasn’t a good idea against the Ballou secondary of Larry Pinkard, Daray Crawford and Cory Queen. Young was only 2 of 14 for 47 yards and for the first time this season didn’t appear to be in total control of the game.

But Ballou dominated the line on the other side, too. With Johnathan Parrott and Clark occupying the right guard and tackle, the Knights ran senior running back Eric Shaw to that side for much of the game. He gained 107 yards on 15 carries, none more impressive than perhaps the biggest play of the game. With Ballou ahead 7-0 midway through the second quarter and facing a fourth and six at its 39, Woodson drew a penalty, making it fourth and one, and Ballou decided to go for it. The Knights ran Shaw to the right side, he shook a tackle at the line of scrimmage, hit the sideline and made a couple of very nice moves en route to a 52-yard gain down to the Woodson 4. Three plays later, Delonte Edwards hit John Brown on a six-yard touchdown pass to give Ballou a 14-0 lead.

Ballou ends the regular season with games against McKinley, Anacostia and Eastern, so don’t expect the Knights to get much of a push prior to the playoffs. Wilson, meantime, has “a bigger game this week,” according to Fleming, against Dunbar, which can never be counted out of a playoff push. Since losing its opener, 37-9, to Friendship Collegiate, the Crimson Tide has won seven straight, though none against a local team with a winning record. Still, it’s hard to imagine Dunbar not having improved significantly since that first game.

What last weekend showed, however, is that nothing about the DCIAA playoffs can be predicted, and it’s been a long time since that’s been the case.

By Alan Goldenbach  |  October 20, 2009; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  Ballou , Coolidge , DCIAA , Dunbar , Football , H.D. Woodson , Wilson  
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