If Dunbar coach Stanley Mitchell didn't know better, he might have thought his team was intentionally testing his patience against No. 9 Randallstown yesterday.
"How many times can we get in or close to the end zone and still not have any points?" the eighth-ranked Poets seemed to be asking.
The answer proved to be three.
But after losing a fumble at the Rams' 5-yard line, having a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown called back and an apparent 7-yard touchdown reception nullified because the receiver was ruled out of the end zone, visiting Dunbar ended Mitchell's frustration and posted a 20-0 win.
"We knew we could put the ball in. It was just a matter of the kids getting their confidence," said Mitchell, who has a 10-3 record since taking over as coach last season.
The loss spoiled the debut of Randallstown coach Jack Bush, who has replaced John Buchheister, now an assistant at Western Maryland.
After playing to a scoreless tie at halftime, the Poets (1-0) dominated the second half. Dunbar's defense forced three turnovers and the Poets outgained Randallstown, 134-4, in the half.
But despite his team's strong second half-effort, Mitchell was not pleased with the Poets' overall performance.
"We acted like we've never played football before," Mitchell said. "Part of the problem is that we don't have enough ballplayers consistently coming to practice because of work or other reasons.
"We cannot hit the way we want to hit in practice. The only hitting we're really getting is when we show up for the game. Our timing is totally off."
Fortunately for Dunbar, the Rams seemed to be out of sync as well.
Offensively, Randallstown (0-1) had only one significant drive -- a five-play series that was halted at Dunbar's 19.
The Rams gained 80 of their 84 yards rushing in the first half and attempts to throw the ball were unsuccessful (1-for-7 for 10 yards).
Randallstown's defense played well in the first half, but the offense's inability to sustain a drive kept the defense on the field too long and it began to take its toll.
The entire third quarter was played in Randallstown territory, but the scoreless tie remained intact until an 11-yard touchdown run by Reggie Boyce (eight carries for 80 yards) on the final play of the period gave the Poets a 6-0 lead.
Dunbar went on to score on its first two possessions in the fourth quarter.
On the first play of the quarter, Dunbar's Gary Hinton intercepted T.J. Williamson's pass and returned it 24 yards to the Rams' 39. That set up an eight-play drive that culminated in Melvin Holley's 5-yard touchdown run as the Poets increased their lead to 12-0.
Dunbar scored again with 2:25 remaining on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Wiggins (6-for-12, 90 yards) to Tommy Polley (five receptions for 70 yards).
"We made too many mistakes, and we let mistakes affect our play," said Bush, a former assistant coach at four colleges and a scout last year for the New England Patriots. "Our kids have to learn how to bounce back from adversity.
"It's just a matter of straightening out some attitudes. It's not a matter of talent. Dunbar played hard and they deserved the win, but we just didn't play well."