Dunbar driven by football legacy

Poets hope to add to titles won by storied '90s teams

High Schools

December 02, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Those who happened to pass by Dunbar's football practice Tuesday at William "Sugar" Cain Field might have wondered why players had tires from 18-wheelers strapped to ropes around their waists.

Each player took a turn, having to travel the width of the field four times before he was done. "It's one of the best ways you can use to toughen them up," said Dunbar coach Ben Eaton, who is in his seventh season.

Toughness is the theme of the week as Eaton prepares his No. 4 Poets (12-1) for Saturday's Class 1A state title game with No. 7 Joppatowne (11-2) at M&T Bank Stadium. It's the trait that characterized Dunbar's Tommy Polley-led state-title-winning teams of 1994 and 1995, when Eaton was an assistant to Stan Mitchell.

Eaton's Poets are making their fourth title-game appearance, their first since being runners-up to Fort Hill of Allegany County in 1997. And Eaton has spent the past few days harping on the qualities of the only Baltimore City squads to bring home state football championships.

"The kids we had then, they were dedicated," Eaton said. "They were physical. They ran a lot and were in excellent shape. We didn't have a lot of depth, so a lot of them went both ways. But our saying was, `You can only keep 11 men on the field at one time, so it had better be your best 11, because ours can go hard the whole game.' I want these kids to be that way. That's why the tires are back out this year."

Eaton has told the players about the 1995 squad, and how its 25-player roster outlasted Churchill, a 70-player team from Montgomery County, 30-28, in an overtime Class 3A final.

The players also were shown the video of the 1994 Poets, who had only 27 players and defeated Fort Hill, 30-15, in a Class 2A final.

"We were in it until the second half," Fort Hill coach Mike Calhoun said. "They just got too physical."

By adding the 1A crown to the 2A and 3A titles, Dunbar would join Seneca Valley, Damascus and Wilde Lake as the only Maryland schools to win state championships in three classifications.

"I saw two of our senior classes leave without rings and we know that our coach deserves a third one," said tackle Antonio Powell. "We want this game to show him how tough we are. But that's hard to do if you're crying over a hangnail."

In addition to winning a third title and avenging the loss to the Mariners, two of Dunbar's players - All-Metro running back Nathan Irby and receiver Darron Edwards - could add to their already impressive numbers.

Irby has scored 34 touchdowns - including 25 rushing - and has run for 2,694 yards. He needs 177 yards to tie the state's rushing leader, Ben Tate of Stephen Decatur, who finished with 2,871 yards after his team's 52-19 Class 2A semifinal loss to Hereford on Friday. Irby ranks third all time behind Sherron Gudger (2,741), a 1991 graduate of McDonough in Charles County.

With 17 touchdown receptions from quarterback Marcus Taylor (1,806 yards, 24 touchdowns), Edwards already has eclipsed the single-season public school record for touchdown catches (15) held by Urbana's Billy Gaines, Seneca Valley's Duricque Taylor and North County's Corey Wright.

Edwards (1,110 yards) needs 56 yards to tie the public school mark for single-season receiving yards (1,166), established by Boonsboro's Joe Himes in 1969.

Reaching either mark would also be an accomplishment for Dunbar's offensive line - John McCoy (6 feet 3, 235 pounds), Powell (6-3, 290), Kyle Johnson (6-8, 290), Alan Bosworth (6-2, 305), James Conway (6-2, 280), Yusuf Dorman-El (6-4, 220), Cecil Crowell (6-0, 240) and Derrick Session (6-0, 191).

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