By MARK F. GRAY, AFRO Staff Writer
There were no surprises for the Ballou Black Knights or H.D. Woodson Warriors, as they met for the second consecutive year for the District of Columbia’s AAAA title, other than the freezing conditions that blew in for the Thanksgiving holiday. Familiarity breeds classic contests and the two heavyweights of the stars division staged an epoch once again.
The holiday meal for friends, family and fans of the teams were delayed as both defenses held the opposition from lighting the scoreboard despite opportunities created by bad special teams and turnovers. Two weary defenses consistently offset those miscues but yielded enough plays to add drama to the script of this masterpiece. The game was not Mona Lisa it wasn’t subway graffiti either.
Each team’s playmakers had impactful moments that forced the game into extra time. Lavonté Gater, Ballou’s all-DCIAA dual threat performer, made his bid for the game’s most valuable player honors with eight catches and 135 yards. Gater fell just short of the end zone twice and the second time he was stopped short at the end of regulation.
Chris Roberts, Jr. rushed 23 times for 127 yards and scored two touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime as Woodson defeated Ballou 18-12 to win the 2018 Turkey Bowl and the DCIAA Championship.
After a scoreless first quarter Woodson took advantage of the game’s first mistake and took the lead. The Knights were the beneficiary of a shanked punt that set them up deep on the Warriors side of the field on the last play of the period. Two plays into the second quarter Ballou scored when Aaron Penny found Anthony Martin with a 16-yard touchdown pass.
However, the theme of the game was set as the Knights missed the first of four conversion attempts that kept the game tied. The teams combined to miss four extra points between them. The feeble attempts at scoring two points were a result of not having competent place kickers on either roster.
Woodson answered after the kickoff set them up to start the drive near midfield. Roberts, Jr. started ripping chunks of yardage through the Ballou defense as he did most of the game. He rushed for 35 of the team’s 52 yards and capped the drive as with a six yard run setting up the game’s first tie that ended the first half scoring.
After more Ballou players were honored for making the all-DCIAA team and the Knights marching band played only to their fans, the Warriors grinded their way to their first lead immediately after the extended halftime. Roberts, Jr. led them downfield but fumbled into the endzone and it was recovered by Ahmad McDuffie and they never trailed again.
Gater set Ballou up later in the third quarter for their final score. He took a screen pass and raced 40 yards setting them up with a first and goal inside the five yard line. However, after a sack and a holding penalty moved them back to the 10, Penny connected with Tremayne Gross but, another missed extra point set the up Roberts, Jr’s overtime exploits.
The win marks Woodson’s fifth DCIAA championship in the last six years. Several members of the staff and players felt that the 2017 loss was because of Ballou’s petitioning the Association about the eligibility of several athletes who were disqualified from competing- so there was a sense of vindication this year.
Woodson now faces Friendship Collegiate in the DCSHAA state title game.