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Roosevelt’s Rough Riders Use Quick Start, Defense to Upend Dunbar, 28-21

Defending Champion's Loss Confirms Greater Parity in DCIAA High School Football

In what many considered to be the biggest high school football game of the season, Roosevelt scored 21 first-quarter points, then rode a strong defensive effort to upend Dunbar High School, 28-21, in a District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) showdown before a homecoming crowd at Dunbar Stadium on Saturday.

The gridiron duel featured the upstart Roosevelt Rough Riders (6-1), who have not been a factor in the league since the days of James Tillerson during the 1970s, pitted against the Dunbar Crimson Tide (4-1).

For the past 20 years, Dunbar, along with H.D. Woodson, have pretty much dominated the league, so Roosevelt had something to prove. Dunbar set the tone early, taking control on their opening drive and going 56 yards in 12 plays to score the first points on a dazzling Juan Pratt 17-yard scamper.

They dominated the first quarter, limiting the Crimson Tide to only eight plays in the first 12 minutes while running off 20 of their own. The next Rough Rider score came from the special teams when Antonio Wilkins returned a punt for 40 yards to make it 14-0 at the 6:48 mark.

The Roosevelt Rough Riders defeated the Dunbar Crimson Tide 28-21 in Dunbar's homecoming game at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in northwest D.C. on Oct. 16. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
The Roosevelt Rough Riders defeated the Dunbar Crimson Tide 28-21 in Dunbar’s homecoming game at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in northwest D.C. on Oct. 16. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Dunbar, the defending champ, finally got things going with a Mike Brown Jr. 25-yard TD reception two minutes later to cut the deficit in half.

But the Rough Riders, undaunted, maintained the pressure, ramping up the defense with Jamal Edwards making the most of an interception and scampering for 39 yards to close out the first quarter, 21-7.
“We have been trying to tell people that we’re coming for the top for a while now but the city just kept sleeping on us,” Juan said.

Dunbar hurt itself repeatedly with penalties (13 for 105 yards) which stymied drives. As for Dunbar’s vaunted Dunbar running game, which boasted an average of 224 yards, it, too, faltered, ending the day with a minus-4 yards total.

Meanwhile, the opportunistic Rough Riders added to their opponent’s woes with five takeaways and four sacks.

“With all the emotion of it being their homecoming and knowing the hype this game had within the city, we knew that getting out early was essential to our success,” said Roosevelt head coach Chris Harden.

“On film, we saw some things in the passing game that we thought we could exploit to set up our running game,” said Dunbar head coach Anthony “Bink” Vaughn. “But we couldn’t hit our receivers and that allowed them to stay in tight and make it tough on our backs.”

Pratt added to his stats for the day with a second TD on a 15-yard run for the Rough Riders’ final score.

Daequan Harvin, Dunbar’s talented running back, scored on a six-yard burst to inch his team closer, 28-13.

The Roosevelt Rough Riders defeated the Dunbar Crimson Tide 28-21 in Dunbar's homecoming game at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in northwest D.C. on Oct. 16. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
The Roosevelt Rough Riders defeated the Dunbar Crimson Tide 28-21 in Dunbar’s homecoming game at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in northwest D.C. on Oct. 16. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Then the weather became a factor, favoring the rushing game of the Crimson Tide in the second half. Harden, who leads the league in rushing, added a 67-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter which helped his team close the margin to just one touchdown after they completed a two-point conversion, 28-21.

Dunbar had one opportunity after the Rough Riders turned the ball over on their next possession in Roosevelt territory. But the Rough Rider defense refused to wilt as they held the Crimson Tide on downs and took over to run out the clock.

“This was a good win for our program,” Harden said. “But like I said to the kids, it is just a league game. We cannot get caught up in this one win.”

Vaughn, last season’s DCIAA Coach of the Year, shared his observations.

“We got beat by a great team today but there were some positive plays so this does not have to define our season,” he said. “I hate to lose but sometimes your messages get stale when you are winning. Losing can be a wakeup call for a good team.”

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