Defense has been the calling card for Dunbar High’s football team the last several weeks. Saturday night against Poly, the offense got in on the fun.

The No. 13 Poets handled the 18th ranked Engineers, 22-0, at Mervo’s Art Modell Field, in a battle for first in the Baltimore City league Division I.

Paki Brown and Travon Garrett each had rushing touchdowns for the Poets (8-1 overall, 6-1 Division I) and junior Deontay McManus returned an interception 75 yards for another score. Dunbar extended its win streak against Engineers (6-3, 5-2 Division I) to seven.

The Poets can clinch at least a tie for the division crown with a victory over Digital Harbor (1-8) next Saturday. Dunbar can win outright with a win and a Patterson (6-1 Division I) loss to Northwestern.

The Poets received another dominant defensive performance along with a bruising rushing attack to overpower the Engineers. Nine different ball carriers combined for 239 rushing yards.

“The offensive line came alive tonight,” said Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith, whose team lone loss came against Patterson in week two. “Our defense has said all year long that they would keep us alive until the offense came along. And this is where you want your offense to come along, at this time of year. We wanted to control the line of scrimmage and the clock.”

The Poets set the tone of the game with their first two possessions. They executed a smash-mouth, 13-play drive on their initial possession, gaining 63 yards on the ground while milking 7 minutes, one second off the clock. Although sophomore quarterback Kevin Estep’s pass fell incomplete on fourth and goal from the seven yard line, the Poets responded on their very next drive.

After Dunbar’s defense forced a three and out, the offensive culminated a nine-play, 47-yard drive with sophomore running back Paki Brown’s 13-yard touchdown run up the middle.

Poly did not gain its initial first down until six minutes left until halftime. With two minutes and thirty nine seconds remaining in the second quarter, Dunbar caught Poly off-guard with a fake punt. Garrett got the ball from his up-back position before scampering 44 yards for the Poets’ second score.

“They didn’t cover the middle or our two guards and they were stacked to the outside,” said Garrett, a senior. “My center gave me a look [before the snap] and I said let’s go. I got the ball, made a cut to the left and just took it to the house.”

Garrett gained 15 yards on another fake punt to keep the chains moving for the Poet offense early in the second half.

The Poets harassed Poly junior quarterback Darrell Milburn, who came in Saturday completing 73-percent of his passes for 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns. Milburn had difficulty finding any time or space to establish any semblance of a passing attack.

Milburn was replaced by junior Jordan Garrison late in the third quarter. The Engineers went 84 yards in 11 plays, but Garrison’s pass on fourth-and-goal fell incomplete.

“In the huddle, we were just telling everybody to stick together because we wanted another shutout,” said McManus, arguably the area’s top junior prospect. “We were in a similar situation in our last game against Edmondson, where they were at our goal line on fourth and one and we shut them down. And we did the same thing today.”

Dunbar posted their fourth consecutive shutout as Dorian Waters had three quarterback sacks. The Poets haven’t allowed a score in their last 19 quarters.

“The tackle that I was going against liked to bite when I went inside, so when I went back out after faking him inside, he couldn’t get there because he was too slow,” said Waters. “Sometimes I was just shooting full speed toward the outside because the lineman couldn’t get back fast enough.”

McManus put an exclamation mark with his interception return with 25 seconds left in the game.

“I read the quarterback’s eyes and once I saw him release the ball and realized that I was in the right spot, I caught it, saw my blockers and just followed them through the crease and into the end zone,” said McManus.

After a 4-0 start, Poly has dropped three of its last five decisions. The Engineers take on rival City College Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium, needing to win to qualify for the Class 3A North Region playoffs.

Dunbar has already secured another state postseason berth. The Poets will likely be the No. 2 seed in the 1A South Region behind undefeated Forest Park.

“Our defense is fast, we have size, we have speed and our upcoming opponents are going to have to match that,” said Smith.  “But we’re still young and we’re still moving forward so we’ll see where this thing takes us.”

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