With a 24-6 victory over Randallstown yesterday, No. 4 Dunbar extended the area's longest winning streak to 13 games.
But the Poets (1-0) acted more like a defeated team than one that became the first Baltimore City public school to win a state championship last season and finished ranked No. 1 in the area.
"I'm really disappointed with our blocking schemes, we've been working on this for the last two weeks," said Dunbar coach Stan Mitchell, who put his team through a grueling 15-minute postgame workout.
"They didn't perform up to par, and I'm really disappointed with our overall performance, offensively and defensively."
Seventeen seniors graduated from last year's Dunbar squad, which went 12-0 and claimed the state 2A championship. The Poets are now a 3A school with only eight seniors on the roster and an inexperienced secondary.
After building a 16-0 lead in the first six minutes, Dunbar played flat and uninspired for the duration.
In the second half, Randallstown (0-1) gained 114 of its 131 yards through the air, finishing overall with 110 total yards after a minus-21 in the first 24 minutes.
The Rams ended an eight-quarter scoreless drought against Dunbar, putting together a nine-play, 72-yard drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Randall Isabelle to Felix Buchanan with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Though Dunbar received a safety late in the contest for the final margin, the game was much closer than the score indicated.
"Defensively, we played a heck of a game in the second half," said Randallstown's first-year coach James Carpenter. "We played well from the second quarter on, but that first quarter really killed us. We came out flat and I think we actually didn't believe in ourselves."
In the first two meetings between the schools, Dunbar won by a combined margin of 38-9, including a 20-0 season-opening win at Randallstown last season.
The Poets appeared to be on their way to another convincing victory, taking the opening kickoff and going 70 yards in eight plays. Ali Culpepper (eight carries, 72 yards) capped the drive, scoring on a sweep around the right side with 8:29 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Randallstown had a third-and-17 at its 11-yard line when Isabelle stepped back and threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to Devin Johnson, who dropped the ball. Culpepper picked up the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
The Poets took advantage of blown coverage by Randallstown as Anthony Wiggins found a wide-open Douglas Hampton for a 45-yard scoring play with only 12 seconds remaining in the first half.
"We're living on last year's reputation, and nobody's laying down for us," said Culpepper. "This team isn't as talented, or has the depth or the heart as last year's team. There's a lot of room for improvement."
The Poets will visit Douglass of Prince George's next Saturday.