WASHINGTON–If Holiday football is supposed to be tough, edgy and competitive then the 5,000 in attendance at the 43rd annual Safeway Turkey Bowl had a lot to be thankful for. On a clear and perfect Thanksgiving Day, a grudge match between the Dunbar Crimson Tide and Anacostia Indians may not have been pretty but the game was simply a beauty at Washington, D.C.'s Eastern High School.
A defensive stand on fourth and goal with less than two minutes left gave Dunbar the ball back on their own one-yard line and eventually granted them their second consecutive District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) title in a 12-8 victory over Anacostia.
Senior quarterback Lamal Matthews found junior receiver James Duff for nine yards to break a scoreless tie with 8:48 left in the second quarter. The Tide were still celebrating their first touchdown when senior linebacker Hazle Crawford returned an interception 44 yards to put Dunbar up 12-0 on Anacostia's ensuing possession.
Indians senior quarterback DeQuan Turner responded after his miscue, driving Anacostia down the field in 10 plays to cut the deficit to 12-6 when he found senior receiver Tyray Johnson for a 15-yard touchdown. Dunbar came within 15 yards of answering the Indians' drive but Matthews muffed the handoff and Anacostia recovered to run out the half.
Anacostia fumbled twice in the second half, once on their opening possession of the third quarter and again after a promising 74-yard drive was spoiled on a botched handoff, allowing Dunbar to recover at their own 18-yard line. "We just had too many turnovers," said Anacostia assistant coach Walter Cross. "When you turn the ball over you're naturally going to lose the game."
Both schools slugged out defensively for the rest of the game until Anacostia received the ball back with 8:10 left to go in the final period. That's when the game really began. Turner drove the Indians on a 13-play, 88-yard course downfield before Dunbar's defense tightened on their own 11-yard line. Anacostia initially had four attempts to even the score before an offsides penalty granted them fourth-and-1 at the Tide two-yard line. Following an Anacostia timeout, Turner's pass sailed over intended receiver Don'Tae Lee's head and Dunbar took over on downs as the Tide faithful erupted.
"It was big," said Dunbar coach Jerron Joe about his team's defensive stand. "If they score there and they tie we have a chance to stop them. But dealing with kids and the momentum swing it would've been difficult to bounce back from that so it was real big."
"We drove the ball we just came up a couple of inches short," Cross said afterwards.
Dunbar took a safety on the following possession to allow for a deeper kickoff . Joe trusted his defense and they didn't let him down as they held Anacostia on consecutive downs before Turner's fourth-down desperation attempt was intercepted by senior corner Davon Fuller.
The 43rd annual Turkey Bowl had a different feel to it this time around as this year's title game winner will advance to the inaugural District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) championship on Dec. 1 at Howard University. Dunbar will face the winner of the Friendship Collegiate/KIPP game scheduled for Nov. 24 at 1p.m.
"This is the first time they're having a city championship and it feels good," Matthews said. "I'm so used to this (Turkey Bowl) being the last game so it feels good to actually go out and we can actually [decide who's the real city champ]. We're going to be prepared and we're going to be ready."