Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith considers this year’s Poets “a bunch of nobodies.” That’s no reflection on their ability to play football, just on how well known they are around the Baltimore City league.
The No. 15 Poets hadn’t beaten No. 10 Mervo in four years as the Mustangs went on to win Baltimore City’s toughest division each time. This year, Mervo went into Saturday’s game at Dunbar’s William F. “Sugar” Cain Field in East Baltimore undefeated. The nobodies sent the defending champs home with a 38-13 loss.
In the postgame huddle, Smith told the Poets, “Nobody knows who none of y’all are. Nobody knows who you are. They’re like, ‘Who’s on Dunbar?’ We’re just a bunch of team members who’s trying to keep the legacy going and that’s how we like it.”
The Poets (3-1) improved to 2-0 in Division I, scoring the first five touchdowns of the game for a 38-0 lead that kicked in the running clock with 1:23 left in the third quarter. Quarterback Jared Lewis and running back Al Graham each had a hand in three touchdowns.
Mervo coach Patrick Nixon said he saw the difference in this Dunbar team when he scouted them in a 16-13 win at Potomac two weeks ago.
“One thing about this Dunbar team, they’re hungry,” Nixon said. “They don’t have the big-name stars, but this is a group that won back-to-back JV championships and they play well together. They’ve had some level of success over the last few years, but not the level of success they’re used to having and I think that’s caused this team right here to be a little hungry. I think a lot of people counted them out early and I think they took that personally. Definitely a really talented team. I saw that first-hand today.”
The Poets have won nine state championships, but none since 2012 although they reached the title game in 2014 and the state semifinals the past two years. They have won a state-record 52 playoff games. As a Class 1A program, the win over Mervo (3-1, 1-1) gives them valuable points for beating a 4A program.
“I’m on the tail end [of the losing streak to Mervo], last year was my first year here,” Lewis said. “We lost last year and it was a tough loss, so we knew this year we wanted to bounce back. We didn’t want to make it four. … It’s a big win because most of the time, it’s either us, Poly or Mervo contending for the city championship and we just knocked them off and we get a lot of points because they’re 4A.”
Smith said this team has come together.
“The difference is with this team, they play together. They’re friends,” he said. “This team, they push each other. They like each other. This is like one of the teams we used to have.”
On the first touchdown, Lewis connected with Graham on a 21-yard pass. Deon Crews-Harris added the two-point conversion, but the Poets led just 8-0 at the half.
Mervo was still in it, but on the first play of the second half, Graham found a hole and raced 54 yards up the middle for a touchdown. Andre Brandon’s conversion run boosted the lead to 16-0 and that fast, the Mustangs were in trouble.
“That was huge,” Nixon said. “At halftime, I felt like, minus the one touchdown pass on third-and-long, we were right there in the game. We blew a couple opportunities early in the game, so I felt like we were still right there. I knew it wasn’t going to be a big-time offensive day for us, so I knew being down multiple scores was going to make it difficult to come back.”
After holding the Mustangs to three-and-out, the Poets scored again. A 28-yard run by Graham followed by a 19-yard pass from Lewis to Demond Jackson boosted the lead to 24-0 with eight minutes left in the third quarter. The Poets added two more touchdowns in the quarter. Graham advanced a Dunbar fumble 35 yards for a score and Lewis threw his third touchdown pass, a 59-yard strike to Raekwon Walker for a 38-0 lead.
“We knew we would have the upper hand on the offensive side,” Lewis said. “We knew they played Cover 2 and the middle of the field would be wide open and we knew we could run the ball on them and we did and we were successful.”
Mervo, which has lost starting receiver Terry Jones and defensive tackle Tim Stephens to season-ending knee injuries, finished the game with a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Carlos Davis hit Tyree Williams with a 24-yard touchdown pass and later ran 33 yards for the final score of the game.
M 0 0 0 13 — 13
D 0 8 24 6 — 38
D—Graham 21 pass from Lewis (Crews-Harris run)
D—Graham 54 run (Brandon run)
D—Jackson 19 pass from Lewis (Crews-Harris run)
D—Graham 35 fumble rec. (Tolbert run)
D—Walker 59 pass from Lewis (run failed)
M—Williams 24 pass from Davis (pass failed)
M—Davis 33 run (Herman kick)