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Football Game of the Week: No. 9 Dunbar at Edmondson

Dunbar quarterback Jared Lewis hands off to Andre Brandon in the first half against Mervo.
Dunbar quarterback Jared Lewis hands off to Andre Brandon in the first half against Mervo. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

No. 9 Dunbar (6-1, 5-0 Baltimore City Division I) at Edmondson (7-1, 5-0)

When: Friday, 3 p.m.

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Coaches: Lawrence Smith, Dunbar; Corey Johnson, Edmondson

Last meeting: Dunbar won, 26-14, last season

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KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Dunbar: QB Jared Lewis, Sr.; RB-DB Al Graham, Sr.; WR-DB Ryan Wood, Sr.; RB-LB Shaun Tolbert, Sr.; DE Dwayne Johnson, Sr.; FB-DE Deon Crews-Harris, Soph.

Edmondson: WR-DB Deshawn Ruffin, Sr.; RB Kevin Martin, Jr.; LB Lauron Taylor, Jr.; DB Darien Carroll-Johson, Sr.; WR-DB Adrian Lindsey, Sr.; FB-LB Darryl Dantzler, Jr.

KEYS TO VICTORY

The 11th annual eastside-westside battle for the Ben Eaton Memorial Trophy is for much more than bragging rights this year. Dunbar and Edmondson are both undefeated in Baltimore City’s Division I and the winner could come away with the city title. A win would also go a long way toward boosting the teams’ stock in their playoff regions.

In the city race, Dunbar already has defeated No. 14 Mervo (6-2, 4-1), the other contender for the championship. The Poets won, 38-13, on Sept. 22, but the Red Storm have to face the three-time defending city champion Mustangs in the division finale Nov. 3. The Poets host winless Patterson next in their final regular-season game, so a win over Edmondson likely would clinch the title for Dunbar.

“We’re approaching it as the city championship, because we control our own destiny with this,” Smith said. “This game means a lot for us with the city championship and state seedings. The kids know how much this game means. They know everything that goes into winning this game.”

In the regional standings, the Poets are second behind Reginald Lewis in Class 1A North but trail only the Falcons and Havre de Grace in average points among all Class 1A teams. Wins over Edmondson and Patterson could boost them over Lewis and possibly give them the second-best points average. If the Poets win their region, they likely would have a home game in the state semifinals for the first time since 2012, the year they won the most recent of their nine state championships.

Edmondson’s players understand the importance, too. A win could also boost the Red Storm in Class 2A North. The Red Storm trail Gwynn Park and Forest Park, but a win over Dunbar would provide a lot of bonus points and a win over Class 4A Mervo could boost them into the top spot. Edmondson won its only state title in 2006.

For the moment, however, the local bragging rights are the first order of business in a rivalry that dates far earlier than the Eaton Trophy, which was named for the Dunbar coach who died suddenly just before the 2007 season. Smith and Dante Jones, the Edmondson coach at the time, both played for Eaton.

Dunbar has won the Eaton Trophy eight times and has beaten the Red Storm in 10 of the past 12 meetings, interrupted only by Edmondson wins in 2013 and 2014.

After dropping their opener at Allegany, 49-42, the Poets turned their season around with a 16-13 comeback win at Potomac in Week 2. Smith said a major factor in the winning season has been an offensive line with no returning starters that has developed quickly. Linemen Dominic Smith, Bakari Mack and Mark Missouri have been key to paving the way for Lewis to throw for 1,639 yards and 14 touchdowns and Graham to run for 596 yards and eight touchdowns.

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The Red Storm, who have 25 seniors, also bounced back after falling to John Carroll, 29-24, on Sept. 22. In that game, Edmondson had four turnovers and missed four two-point conversion attempts. Johnson said his team is running the ball better, which forces opponents to drop a safety into the box and opens the passing game for Ruffin, who had been facing triple coverage. Martin, who was injured for the John Carroll game, has emerged as the key ball carrier, running for more than 200 yards in last week’s 32-22 win over Poly and for 728 yards this season with eight touchdowns.

“They’re very athletic,” Smith said of the Red Storm, “and when you play a team like Edmondson, you’ve got to try to stop the home run. You’ve got to make them sustain drives. You cannot give up the big play. That’s totally the key.”

Johnson agreed.

“Graham is a special talent and we really have to make sure we contain him and don’t let him get out on a run,” he said. “I even saw Lawrence put in the lot like they used to do with Tavon [Austin] and we also have to contain their quarterback at the same time. They have a dual threat there (Lewis) who can run and throw the football. We know they’re going to be aggressive defensively, but if we can stay committed to our running game, we should be pretty good.”

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

— No. 6 Old Mill at Arundel, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

— No. 8 Mount Saint Joseph vs. No. 1 St. Frances at Utz Field, Friday, 7 p.m.

— No. 2 McDonogh at No. 10 Calvert Hall, Friday, 7 p.m.

— Glenelg at No. 12 River Hill, Friday, 7 p.m.

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