Ballou Knights head coach Moses Ware believes in his quarterback. He trusts him, he values him and he respects him. With the way Delonte Edwards played down the stretch in Saturday’s DCIAA semifinal game against the Dunbar Tide, it’s easy to understand why. Trailing 31-28 with 3:49 left in the final period, Edwards directed a game-clinching 73-yard drive and connected on a 35-yard strike to Dontray Crawford to push the Knights into their third consecutive Turkey Bowl appearance.

It was only fitting that Edwards capped the game with one final touchdown. The senior signal caller had already accounted for Ballou’s four previous scores, finishing with two touchdown runs and three passing scores while adding 282 passing yards on the afternoon. When the Knights need him most, Edwards was there. Edwards tossed scoring strikes of 22 and 66 yards in the first half before punching in a one-yard score to give Ballou a 21-15 halftime lead.

With 9:10 remaining in the fourth period, Dunbar rebounded to take its first lead of the day after a Curlee Walker five-yard run made it 31-28. Following a pair of stops by both defenses, Edwards got the ball back late in the quarter before finishing the back and forth with his final throw of the day. The Tide got the ball back with 1:01 left but a botched snap and an illegal forward pass stalled their drive before the Knights launched a celebration of their second win of the season over Dunbar.

“It was very difficult,” Edwards said about defeating the Tide. “The first time we played them it was difficult, so the second time you play somebody it’s always harder.”

The Knights had their problems stopping the run against Dunbar. Walker and fellow running back Olu Izegwire accounted for 251 rushing yards, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a championship-caliber performance from Edwards.

“Delonte Edwards I believe is the best quarterback in the area, bar none” Ware said.

“So I know when we got the ball in his hands, no matter what the situation is, if it’s obtainable we have a chance to win the game.”

Ballou will square off with H.D. Woodson on Thanksgiving Day in a rematch of last season’s Turkey Bowl. Woodson defeated Coolidge 14-2 on Nov. 13 to advance to the title game. The Knights fell short against Woodson last season but Ware doesn’t believe that last season’s loss will add for any extra motivation to his already highly motivated team.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ware said. “We felt like we let the Turkey Bowl get away last year so the kids have kind of been focusing on that. If they need some extra motivation for a championship then they’re playing the wrong sport. Whoever’s left we’re going to try to beat.”

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO