By MARK F. GRAY, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
Finally, no soul can say that Bell can’t win the big one in the District of Columbia’s Interscholastic Athletic Association’s second division. After four consecutive losses in the city’s class A championship game the Griffins exorcised the demons of past failures with a 47-0 pounding of McKinley Tech which moves them into the Stars division next year.
Bell had been carrying the scar tissue from their 2017 heartbreaking last second loss all season and they left no doubt who was the best team in this year’s junior circuit. After Theodore Roosevelt literally stole the title, they were on a mission to end the curse and put to bed the comparisons with the Buffalo Bills as a team that was good enough to play for a championship but never win one.
They marched through the season with a 10-0 record but there was a skepticism around the city that the pressure to win the Gravy Bowl was so great they would never get over the hump. Four consecutive losses in their championship game has minimized the excellence of their regular season’s over the last half decade.
Its rare inside the District of Columbia’s high school interscholastic association that coaches pull for each other. In many cases there is a healthy respect forged after years of competing against one another. However, more often coaches are prosecuting instead of competing against each other by looking for loopholes in the rules that will allow for a team’s eligibility to be questioned for a variety of dubious reasons.
This year many coaches and officials around D.C. were secretly hoping Bell’s time was now because they had done all they could do except win a stripes division championship. The Griffins already earned their respect and coach Daniel Tyson was universally regarded as the “nicest coach who you hope can figure out how to get over the hump before it kills him,” said a Stars Division assistant coach who didn’t want to be identified.
There was no guarantee that Tyson would return to the sideline after the way last year ended for Bell. The stress of consistently falling short of the ultimate prize was reportedly wearing on the coach who had dominated his division four consecutive years but had nothing to show for it.
Tyson’s decision to return proved to be more pragmatic than poetic though. Bell brought an experienced talented team back to make another run at the Gravy Bowl. Quarterback Ronnell St. John and wide receiver Jaymond Kelly led the Griffins all season, and with a championship in the balance they played their best.
Bell averaged over 45 points per game during the regular season and was on point once again in the Gravy Bowl. The explosive duo lit up McKinley’s secondary for the game’s first touchdown late in the opening quarter. That opened the floodgates to the offensive barrage that would turn the latter stages of the game into a house party on the sidelines.
St. John finished the afternoon with three touchdown passes during a performance that personified the Griffins offensive prowess for the entire year. The defense, which was almost forgotten because of the video game statistics of their offense, pitched its ninth consecutive shutout. Bell’s defense didn’t yield a single point since its opening game.
With the pressure off and its spot secured in the stars division Bell can focus on winning the D.C. State championship with a victory over Kingsman Academy. It would be the fitting conclusion to the painful journey that made their victory in the Gravy Bowl so sweet.