Roosevelt wins first state football title

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The Rough Riders capped a historic season by winning both the DCIAA Stripes division and the DCSAA football titles in the same year for the first time. (photo by Cory Royster)
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In the Gravy Bowl game on Nov. 18, Roosevelt’s vaunted defensive front was leaky — allowing Bell to earn nearly 120 rushing yards and to control the line of scrimmage at times. The Rough Riders managed to win that game, but the performance haunted the Roosevelt linemen all week.

That fire showed as the team’s defensive front returned to its dominant form in the D.C. State Athletic Association championship game against National Collegiate Prep on Saturday night at Catholic University. The Rough Riders allowed just 69 rushing yards while pummeling the Panthers quarterback en route to a 34-8 victory and DCSAA Class A championship.

“Coming into this game, we were dwelling on our performance from last week,” said senior defensive end Darius Buchanan, who was named the game’s most valuable player. “We were just thinking, ‘Dominate for four quarters.’”

The victory gave the Rough Riders their first state gridiron title, capping off a historic season that also included a second straight championship in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association Stripes division — which earned Roosevelt a promotion to the league’s Stars league next fall.

“It just feels great, especially to see the alumni come down and congratulate us,” said Roosevelt coach Chris Harden. “It feels great to know we made history. I am proud of my kids and of the direction of the program.”

Roosevelt doubled up with gridiron titles for the DCSAA and DCIAA Stripes division. (photo by Cory Royster)

The Rough Riders’ offense was led by junior quarterback Leon Gray, who was a steady force with 90 passing yards and one passing touchdown. His top targets were Jesus Robinson and Kamau Stith, who combined for four catches and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Roosevelt’s rushing attack was led by the DCIAA Stripes division player of the year — senior running back Alonzo Beverly. The runner racked up 200 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

“All credit goes to my line,” said Beverly. “I can’t do anything if they don’t block. When I broke through the line, I kept going to the outside.”

While Roosevelt eventually triumphed, the Panthers were the early aggressors and scored on their second drive of the game to take a quick 8-0 lead.

But Roosevelt settled into its offense, which focused on wearing out the National Collegiate Prep defense with a steady dose of Beverly. The strategy helped Roosevelt build a 15-7 lead at halftime.

In the state final on Saturday, Roosevelt’s defense was stifling, while its rushing attack was punishing. (photo by Cory Royster)

After the break, the Rough Riders employed a Wildcat offense — featuring Beverly taking direct snaps from center while flanking their quarterback out on the wings as a wideout.

“When the coaches met at halftime, we said, ‘Let’s feed the beast.’ We figured, let’s pound them,” said Harden.

The emphasis on the run helped the Rough Riders build the lead up to 34-8 while wearing out the defense.

The Panthers couldn’t get on track on offense, either, with their quarterback struggling to elude the Rough Riders’ ferocious pass rush.

“Their tackles were slow on the edge, and I just used my speed rush,” Buchanan said. “It woke me up and made me go harder in the second half.”

Roosevelt finished the season with an 11-2 record and will move up to the DCIAA Stars division next fall.

Tigers fall in Class AA semis

The Wilson football team fell to Friendship Collegiate 28-14 on Saturday afternoon at Catholic University in the D.C. State Athletic Association football semifinals. Wilson put up a valiant effort, but six turnovers ultimately undercut the Tigers’ effort.

The loss ended the Wilson season with a record of 6-6.