When you have only a little under 14 minutes to decide a key high school football game, it’s important to start fast. The Dunbar Poets did.
The No. 6 Poets returned two interceptions for touchdowns and scored a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to blow open a close game and defeat No. 10 Mervo, 36-8, at Poly on Monday.
Monday’s game was the continuation of a contest that was played at Mervo on Sept. 21 and stopped by the fire marshal with Dunbar leading 16-8 with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter. Authorities were concerned because there were so many people in and around the perimeter of the stadium that it was becoming hard to keep order. There were reports of a fight, but no arrests were made.
The game was finally finished at Poly on Monday afternoon, and authorities did not allow any spectators.
“We knew we had to come out ready,” Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said. “They had us backed up, and we had to make sure they didn’t score. We’ve always been defense-driven all year, and then Raekwon [Walker] made a play to get us started.”
With Mervo (6-1, 4-1) driving on its second possession Monday, the Mustangs faced third-and-10 on the Dunbar 36. Quarterback Nate Mercer’s pass was intercepted at the Poets 30 by Walker, and the senior ran down the Mervo sideline untouched to extend the lead to 22-8 with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter after a failed 2-point conversion pass.
“I knew we needed a big play, and I wanted to make it,” Walker said. “He started to run, and I just watched his eyes and jumped the route. Then I returned it to the house.”
The Dunbar defense added to the lead on Mervo’s next possession. On a third-and-4 at the Dunbar 33, senior Rarshard Williams had almost a carbon copy of Walker’s interception, though this time in front of the Dunbar bench. Williams jumped the route and ran 69 yards untouched into the end zone. After the 2-point conversion failed, Dunbar led 28-7 with 5:33 left.
The Poets (7-0, 5-0) capped off the scoring on a 1-yard run by quarterback Derrick Dunn with 55 seconds left for the final margin of 34-8.
The win keeps the Poets undefeated in Baltimore City Division I. Dunbar will face Edmondson, also undefeated, on Saturday in a showdown for what amounts to the division title.
Both coaches expressed regret that the game had to end the way it did.
“Sure, I’m disappointed,” Mervo coach Patrick Nixon said. “We had the momentum [when the game was stopped], and we were never able to regain it. It was a weird feeling finishing the game here, but I credit Dunbar. They capitalized on their opportunities.”
Smith said he saw a teaching moment in the two-part game.
“We teach these kids that they have to deal with the situation and the hand they are dealt,” Smith said. “Things happen, and we all have to deal with that kind of adversity. I was disappointed [about what happened at Mervo], but we just wanted to come here and get it done, and we did.”
Dunbar 34, Mervo 8
D 0 16 0 18 -- 34
M 0 8 0 0 -- 8
D – Brandon 2 run (Crews Harris pass from Simpson)
D – Brandon 10 run (Walker run)
M – Smith 14 pass from McClain (Moffett run)
D – Walker 70 interception return (pass failed)
D – Williams 69 interception return (run failed)
D – Dunn 1 run (kick failed)