Football Game of the Week: No. 6 Dunbar at No. 7 Poly

October 20, 2011

No. 6 Dunbar (6-1, 5-1) at No. 7 Poly (7-0, 6-0)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Coaches: Lawrence Smith, Dunbar; Roger Wrenn, Poly

Last meeting: Dunbar won, 22-0, last season

Key players to watch

Dunbar: WR/FS DeonTay McManus, Sr. (16 catches for 227 yards; 55 tackles); DB-WR Aaron Haynaes, Sr. (5 INT – 2 returned for TDs; 10 catches for 139 yards, 2 TDs); DE-TE Marvin Gross, Jr. (12.5 sacks); RB-LB Charles Brown, Sr. (10 catches for 117 yards, 1 TD; 77 tackles); RB-DB Paki Brown, Jr. (60 carries for 416 yards, 2 TDs); LB-TE Ernest Hawkins, Sr. (6 sacks; 12 catches for 126 yards, 2 TDs).

Poly: TE-CB Donovan Riley, Sr. (120 catches for 6 TDs, 5 tackles, 4 INT); RB-DB Jamal Chappell, Sr. (508 rushing yards, 10 TDs); LB-RB Priestly Shuler, Sr. (65 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 223 rushing yards for 5 TDs); LB Jonathan Melton, Sr. (59 tackles, 2 INT); QB Darrell Milburn, Sr. (416 yards passing for 4 TDs: 1 INT), Jordan Garrison, Sr. (98 yards rushing, 70 yards receiving; 27 tackles, 2 INT).

Keys to victory

The biggest game in Baltimore City this fall features two stingy defensive teams who allow only about a touchdown per game. The Engineers give up 7.6 points a game, while the Poets allow 6.

The Poets, who have won seven straight games over Poly, pose a huge test — literally — for the Engineers. Up front, the Poets average about 300 pounds.

"Our biggest concern is they must outweigh us by 80 pounds a person on the line," said Wrenn, whose Eingineers allowed Patterson 34 points two weeks ago but have given up just 19 in their other six games. "My little linemen have been wonderfully overachieving all year long, and I'm proud of them as I can be, but we're trying to devise some schemes where we're just not getting those great big guys with our little teeny guys."

Smith said that size difference may not win out at first, but it should eventually.

"If we basically run the ball at them, we might get stopped first quarter, second quarter," Smith said. "But if we can push them around, they're eventually going to wear down. You can't stop mass. If somebody is 300 pounds working on somebody 180 pounds, by the fourth quarter, they're going to be tired of 300 pounds landing on them."

Last season, the Poets' defense held Poly to just 131 yards of total offense and used a couple of big plays — a 44-yard touchdown run off a fake punt and McManus' 75-yard interception return — to spark their victory. Wrenn said he looks for the kicking game to be critical once again.

Turnovers — a problem for the Poets at times in the last few years — have also been critical in the rivalry. Two years ago, the Engineers rolled up 438 yards of offense but lost the game, 22-18, because of special teams and turnovers. The Poets returned a blocked punt 74 yards for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery set up a 96-yard rushing touchdown. Dunbar had a chance to take control early, but a fumble hurt them too.

This game likely will decide who wins Baltimore City's Division I championship. If they're going to win the title, the Poets have a game to make up on Poly after forfeiting their Southwestern game as punishment for a brawl in their season opener.

The game is even more critical for the Engineers, who, Wrenn said, could get knocked out of the Class 4A North playoffs with a single loss. Poly holds a slim lead on also-unbeaten Catonsville for first place in the region this week, but a loss could really hurt because other teams in the region play more 4A teams and can rack up more points. Dunbar, the defending state Class 1A champ, is nearly three points ahead of second-place Forest Park in the region and should have no trouble securing a playoff berth.

Other games to watch:

Southern-AA at No. 3 Old Mill, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

No. 9 Archbishop Spalding at No. 2 Calvert Hall, Friday, 7 p.m.

Milford Mill at No. 10 Catonsville, Friday, 7 p.m.

No. 11 Loyola at No. 13 Mount St. Joseph, Saturday, 2 p.m.

No. 8 McDonogh at Georgetown Prep, Saturday, 4 p.m.

Howard at No. 15 Glenelg, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

-- Katherine Dunn

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