Last season, an academic blemish allowed the Dunbar Crimson Tide to slip into the annual Washington, D.C. high school championship game, also known as the Turkey Bowl, much to the chagrin of several in attendance last Thanksgiving Day.

This season however, Dunbar didn’t want to just slide through the backdoor into the city title game, they wanted to kick in the front door and on Thanksgiving Day at D.C.’s Eastern High School, the Tide left no doubt about the identity of the best team in the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA), shutting down the Coolidge Colts in a 33-21 victory on Nov. 24.

“We just had to come out and play hard, play as a team and we wanted it more,” said an exuberant Olu Izegwire, who scored three touchdowns. “We said all week we have to work hard to get this win and we worked hard and got the win.”

Squaring off against a Colts team that came within one point of defeating the Tide earlier this month in a 43-42 nail biter, Dunbar quickly erased a 7-0 deficit as they rode their two-headed senior running back combo of Izegwire and Curley Walker to a 21-point first half. With the game deadlocked 7-7 late in the first quarter, Izegwire originally fumbled a punt return before corralling the loose ball and taking it 71 yards for a score. The return appeared to deflate the Colts while jump-starting the Tide, who statistically dominated the entire first half and most of the game although miscues and turnovers kept the score in check.

After striking first with a seven-play, 81-yard drive, the Colts could only come as close as 21-13 at halftime.

Then Dunbar put it away in the second half. Leading by a touchdown to start the second half, the Tide continued to punish the Colts’ small defensive line with their ground attack. “The running game was great,” Dunbar head coach Willie Bennett said after the game. “Our horses ran and got first downs when we needed them.”

With Coolidge focused on stopping the run, Dunbar was able to catch the Colts secondary by surprise when junior quarterback Lamel Matthews connected with his brother, Delonte Matthews, for 23 yards to push the score to 27-13. With Walker (119 rushing yards) and Izegwire (149 rushing yards) paving the way, Matthews was able to throw for three scores on the day, forcing Coolidge to abandon their own running game.

Colts senior signal caller Femi Bamiro was intercepted twice in the second half and later benched for fellow senior Darrius Taylor, who was also intercepted in the closing quarters. “We played a good game. We just had mistakes,” Bamiro said afterwards.

The victory gave Dunbar (9-3) its first DCIAA title since 2007 while Coolidge (8-3) hasn’t hoisted a city crown since 1986.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO