A lot will be at stake when Dunbar's football team takes the field at Poly on Saturday for the Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference championship against Patterson.
The Poets (9-0) will be attempting to win their first B Conference title since 1985.
More importantly, they will be trying to gain some of the acclaim that has gone to the school's nationally recognized basketball program.
"During the last couple of years, I have been saying I play football, not basketball, so why can't the team get any recognition?" said senior linebacker Elton Banks. "For the seniors, this really means a lot because basketball has surrounded us and being able to help put some focus on the football program also means a lot."
Although his football team has the area's No. 8 ranking, coach Pete Pompey spends much of his time answering basketball questions. People want to know, among other things, which college Keith Booth will attend and how the basketball team will do after winning the 1991-92 mythical national championship.
"I still get a tremendous amount of basketball questions because there have been some very good basketball players here," Pompey said, "but interrupting those basketball questions, every once in a while, are football questions, and that makes me feel good."
And with good reason.
The Poets have outscored their B Conference opponents 246-12, posting an area-leading seven shutouts in nine games. One of their victims was No. 13 Patterson, 30-0, on Oct. 9, part of a 27-quarter scoreless streak by Dunbar.
Like so many Poets basketball teams, the football team is led by an imposing front line.
Derrick Player (6 feet 5, 320 pounds), Jamal Elliott (6-0, 220), Keith Washington (5-10, 220), Vashawn Ragsdale (5-8, 220) and Darrell Jones (6-2, 206) have created havoc for opponents on offense and defense.
The Poets also have a solid nucleus at the skill positions: quarterback E. J. Fitzgerald (1,363 yards and 13 touchdowns), receivers Omar Parker (24 receptions, 707 yards, seven touchdowns) and Sean Lipscombe (23 receptions, 274 yards, two touchdowns) and running back Hollis Roberts (74 carries, 506 yards, six touchdowns).
"We have had some injuries, and in past years those injuries would have depleted us," Pompey said. "But we have been able to overcome those injuries because we have kids who are able to step in and play."
In their last championship appearance, in 1985, the Poets defeated Edmondson, 27-12, the last of four consecutive championship meetings between the schools.
In those four meetings, Pompey coached Edmondson and Bob Wade coached the Poets. Pompey replaced Wade in 1986 after Wade became Maryland basketball coach.
"This game is very important because we haven't won a title since 1985," said Player, a senior tackle. "We have worked hard to make the football program successful."
B Conference final
Co-No. 8 Dunbar (9-0) vs. No. 13 Patterson (9-1), at Poly, Saturday, noon