In a battle to clinch a first-round home game advantage in the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (DCIAA) Stripes divisional playoffs, the Eastern Ramblers dominated the Phelps Panthers, 39-0, in the regular season finale on Nov. 7 in Washington, D.C.
The last time these two teams met on Oct. 3, Phelps left with a win of 21-6. However, at Friday night’s showdown, Eastern’s defense was more than ready, which resulted in a shutout at home.
“We just wanted to dominate them. The first game we had quite a few injuries. Now we’re healthy and at full strength; I don’t think anybody can play with us right now,” said coach Jason Strickland. “We knew what they were going to do before they did it.”
In the first half, Eastern’s senior defensive back/wide receiver Chris Coleman had a 69-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, and senior Dajuan Greene picked off Phelps sophomore quarterback Ernest Harper for a 32-yard touchdown.
“We just played to the scheme,” said Greene. “We know they like to go deep. We just watched film, film, film.”
In the third quarter, Eastern’s sophomore quarterback Jarome Johnson rushed for one of his two touchdowns of the night. Johnson threw 5-of-11 for 82 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also had eight carries for 78 yards.
“I feel good…really excited,” said Johnson after the game. “I was running and saw an opening to the right, so I cut back and ran to score.”
Although Eastern usually plays with a pass-heavy offense—Johnson threw for 897 yards and 11 touchdowns in the last three games of the season—its defense and special teams were the real stars in Friday’s game.
Junior defensive back John Johnson filled the stadium with “oohs” and “ahhs” when he ran a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Johnson also contributed eight tackles and a tackle for loss.
Senior linebacker Elliot Mack had 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack. Senior defensive back Ramani Smith had seven tackles, one sack and broke up a key pass.
“We went out there and played our hearts out. We were just all over the place, stopping, getting tackles,” said Greene, who finished with five tackles, an interception return for touchdown and a receiving touchdown. “It was a team effort. Everybody contributed. Everybody felt the need to step up more.”
Eastern has won five straight games since starting the season off 0-5. They look to keep the win streak going all the way to the Gravy Bowl.
“This just means since the re-launch of Eastern Senior High School, we’re starting to peak at the right time,” said Coach Strickland. “We’ve gone through three years of development, and now it’s time to go for this championship.”
Heading into the game, Eastern, Phelps, Bell and McKinley Tech were all locked in spots in the DCIAA Stripes playoffs with 4-2 records against conference teams. Since Bell defeated McKinley, 7-6, on Nov. 7, there will be a coin toss Monday morning to determine the No. 1 and No. 2 seeding between Bell and Eastern. Phelps is No. 3, while McKinley Tech rounds out at No. 4.