By MARK F. GRAY, Special to the AFRO
It never takes much to motivate teams for a run at the city championship. This season the motivation to play in Thanksgiving Day’s Turkey Bowl for Bell and H.D. Woodson come from opposite ends of the spectrum heading into the final month of the regular season for these two teams who sit on top of the stars and stripes divisions.
Woodson’s motivation was evident last week during their game versus Wilson and it had nothing to do with football. Starting quarterback Ethan Lane was shot leaving practice over one week ago and remains hospitalized. There is no specific timetable for the freshman to return but last week it was clear his teammates were feeling his presence as he recovers.
The Ballou High School Knights won last year’s Turkey Bowl. (Courtesy Photo)
Junior wide receiver Andre Winestock, Lane’s cousin, wore Lane’s jersey number 13 and perhaps that was the lift that the previously inconsistent Woodson needed for arguably their biggest win of the season. The 19-0 shutout of their fiercest division rival may signal that Woodson is ready to make another run at making the DCIAA’s championship game. Winestock was reportedly with Lane when the incident occurred and told The Washington Post he made the wardrobe change to honor his injured teammate and family member.
Winestock jump started Wilson’s victory by scoring a touchdown on the opening kickoff and setting the tone for the game. That return fueled a dominant performance by the defense that put the clamps on Wilson for good. Running back Ahmad McDuffie also set them up with a long run in the third quarter that led to the field goal that basically sealed the game.
Despite meeting Wilson with an undefeated record in this critical mid-season contest Woodson head coach Greg Fuller constantly has been stating his team was “under construction.” After opening the season with three tough losses and two unimpressive conference wins the Warriors may be peaking at the right time in hopes of returning to this year’s Turkey Bowl where they hope to avenge last year’s loss to Ballou that ended their four year championship run.
Bell, meanwhile, has been fueled by last year’s loss in the stars division championship game that kept them out of the annual holiday championship matchup. They have played all season with a chip on their shoulder and have “embraced failure” which keeps driving them.
Unlike Wilson, the Griffins are an experienced team who have set the tone as the team to beat in their division. They are 5-0 with a full game lead on McKinley Tech as a group of veterans have taken the reigns of a team who is using the disappointment of 2018 as a buoy for their run of dominance to open the season.
Senior running back Rashaad Harris is emerging as a leader and playmaker on both sides of the ball for Bell. During last week’s game versus Phelps, Harris made huge contributions on offense and defense that led them to a 52-0 victory. Harris scored three touchdowns and intercepted a pass during the rout setting them up for a potentially easier march to the DCSAA championship.
With Theodore Roosevelt moving to the stars division the road to finally playing for a championship on Thanksgiving seems to be less rocky than before. However, the Griffins know all too well how the fickle hand of fate can deal dastardly blows, which can end the hopes and dreams of a team on the brink of playing for a title. Bell has qualified for the DCSAA playoffs each of the last four years but haven’t advanced beyond the semifinals including 2017 when the season ended with a last second loss to Roosevelt.