Poly's playoff hopes were endangered by two consecutive losses to open the season. Now they are all but invisible.
Second-ranked Dunbar made sure of that yesterday at Lumsden-Scott Stadium, breaking open a close game in the fourth quarter to romp past the No. 11 Engineers, 30-6.
Poly simply had no defense for the Poets' bruising ground game led by Ali Culpepper and Jason Boyce.
In his first start at tailback, Culpepper, a junior, rushed for 221 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns. Boyce, a sophomore, added 109 yards in nine rushes and scored the clinching touchdown.
"I wanted to finally give Ali [formerly a fullback] a shot and see if Boyce could step up at fullback," said Dunbar coach Stanley Mitchell. "I've been searching and searching for a combination and both of them did very well."
Culpepper launched the scoring with a 54-yard burst through the left side with 3:45 left in the first period and an Anthony Wiggins-to-Tommy Polley conversion pass gave Dunbar (4-1) an 8-0 lead. The Poets would never trail.
With 2:30 remaining in the second quarter, Culpepper struck again with a 77-yard scoring jaunt after Poly was held on downs at the Dunbar 23.
"On that one I had to shake off a defender or two," said Culpepper. "It wasn't as easy."
Because of a penalty, he had to cross the goal line twice for the Poets' third touchdown, scoring for real from the 5 to climax a 14-play, 78-yard drive that included two penalties.
Poly (2-3) surprised the Poets with some effective first-half passing but "we just couldn't put the ball in the end zone when I felt we were beginning to wear them down," said coach Augie Waibel.
After stalling on their first two possessions, the Engineers pulled to within 8-6 on a 3-yard run by John Pierre that completed an 80-yard drive.
Along the way, quick, slant-in passes from Dustin Jones to Chris Barnes consumed most of the yardage, including nine on a fourth-and-seven situation from the Dunbar 15.
Trailing 16-6, the Engineers took advantage of field position on an exchange of punts to reach the Dunbar 22. But in three straight cracks through the middle, they gained one yard and lost the ball on downs.
Then, the Poets launched the successful, time-consuming march to their third score.
Mitchell said he warned his team that Poly could not afford another defeat and "has to play every game like it's a championship.
"We tried to stress that we can't afford to put ourselves in that position, too," he said.
Dunbar, the defending state 2A champion but now a 3A team, is now in pretty good shape. Culpepper and Boyce guaranteed that.
"When you can't stop the run, you're in big trouble," said Waibel. "Those are two pretty good backs."