The Ballou Knights were right where they wanted to be, with a 6-0 record and a home game against the team that stopped them six yards short of a Turkey Bowl championship last year.

But, just as they took that game from Ballou last season, the H.D. Woodson Warriors stole another win on Oct. 22, upsetting Ballou 22-20 in front of a stunned home crowd. Ballou controlled the majority of the game, but Woodson (5-3) made the plays down the stretch when the home team couldn’t, and made the catches in the end zone that Ballou couldn’t seem to hold onto.

After Woodson’s Darius Redman scored the game’s opening touchdown on an eight-yard pass, Ballou’s Gary Jones scored on consecutive one-yard runs to give the Knights a 14-6 lead going into halftime. As Ballou jogged into the locker room, they exited the field with a confident swagger, and for good reason. Their defense had controlled the contest since Redman’s opening score and their offense—which had averaged 34.8 points in six games—was warming up. A taste of revenge after last year’s 30-26 loss on Thanksgiving Day was on their minds, and their home crowd was swaying to the sounds of the school band in the midst of a chilly night.

A few minutes into the third quarter, Woodson was on the verge of collapse. Ballou’s Darren Holbrook intercepted Woodson’s Terron Buchanan at the Ballou five-yard line, ending one of Woodson’s few productive drives of the evening. Ballou had the ball back and was ready to pounce during the following possession, but Woodson’s defense tightened up and forced Ballou to punt.

Woodson’s Tyrell Arrington scored a three-yard run on the following drive and ran in the two-point conversion to even the game at 14-14 with 46 seconds left in the third quarter. Woodson’s Kenny Crawley then intercepted Ballou quarterback Delonte Edwards with 7:11 left in the fourth, and returned the pick 43 yards to the Knights’ eight-yard line. Woodson scored and converted the two-point conversion to give them a 22-14 lead with just over seven minutes remaining.

But Edwards and Ballou jetted down field on the ensuing drive before the senior signal-caller found Courtney Holmes standing wide open in the end zone to make it 22-20 with just under four minutes left in the game.

A subsequent Woodson punt gave Ballou the ball back at midfield, but Demetrius Dent deflated the home crowd after he dropped a wide-open pass from Edwards, who found the receiver streaking down the sideline ready to score.

“That was a lucky break for us,” Woodson coach Greg Fuller said. “Very lucky break, I don’t know why we weren’t in the right coverage but that was a big break for us.”

Redman then nearly broke the game open after he intercepted Edwards two plays later and raced down the field before fumbling at his own one-yard line and giving Ballou the ball back. “He threw it directly to me,” Redman said. But Woodson’s defensive unit held Ballou on the next four downs to earn them the victory and a shot at their third consecutive Turkey Bowl appearance next month.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO