Dunbar dominates No. 11 Mervo; Graham and Lewis each account for 3 TDs

Dunbar’s Andre Brandon heads downfield as teammate Deon Crews-Harris tries to shield off Mervo’s Corey Shell (22) during Saturday’s Baltimore City Division I football contest. The 16th-ranked Poets exploded in the second half for a 38-13 decision over the No. 11 Mustangs at Sugar Cain Field.

Midway through the third quarter of Dunbar High’s football victory over Mervo Saturday afternoon, Poets quarterback Jared Lewis lost the ball as he was about to be pulled down by a Mustang defender. Teammate Alphonso Graham pick up the fumble and went untouched 35 yards in the end zone for a touchdown.

It was that kind of day for the 16th-ranked Poets, who exorcised several seasons of frustration against No. 11 Mervo with a 38-13 decision at Sugar Cain Field in east Baltimore.

Lewis, a senior, threw for three touchdowns for Dunbar and Graham finished with 120 yards rushing and three scores. Carlos Davis threw for a score and ran for another for Mervo.

The Poets (3-1 overall, 2-0 Division I) put a running clock in the second half on the three-time reigning Baltimore City Division I champ Mustangs, who had won the previous three meetings. It’s just the third loss for Mervo in 31 decisions against Baltimore City competition, dating back to 2013.

Though Dunbar has been the most successful city program on the state level, being best in the city is always first on its yearly wish list.

“We had to make a statement. We had to let the city know that we’re coming up,” said Dunbar senior linebacker Dwayne Johnson, who recorded two sacks. “We’re a quiet storm, being humble and going to work.”

“We knew this was big and put us in the driver’s seat for the city title,” said Poets coach Lawrence Smith, whose team lost to Mervo at home last season (19-17), following 20-14 and 14-8 setbacks in 2015 and 2014, respectively. “We knew beating a 4A school also get us a lot of [playoff] points.”

It appeared early it was going to a classic low-scoring city league struggle (Dunbar led 8-0 at halftime), but the Poets exploded in the second half. On the first play of the second half, Graham exploded through a hole and went untouched 54 yards to the end zone.

“I saw the hole and just used patience and speed,” said Graham, a transfer from Reginald Lewis.

Dunbar’s defense got Mervo (3-1, 1-1 Division I) off the field in four plays, and the offense covered 51 yards in six plays as Lewis connected with Demond Jackson for a 19-yard score.  The Mustangs got into Dunbar’s territory on their next possession, but turned the ball over on downs.

The frustration grew for the Mustangs after Graham’s fumble score made it 32-0 with 5:45 left in the third quarter. Lewis (seven-of-15, 117 yards) found Raekwon Walker for a 59-yard catch-and-run score, starting the running clock with 1:22 left in the third.

“We blew a couple opportunities early in the game, so I felt like we were still right there,” said Mervo coach Patrick Nixon. “I knew it wasn’t going to be a big-time offensive day for us, so I knew being down multiple scores was going to make it difficult to come back.”

The Hillen Street school got two scores in the fourth as Davis (13-of-24, 236 yards) found Tyree Williams across the middle for a 24-yard score. Davis eluded a couple of Dunbar defenders for a 33-yard touchdown run late in regulation.

Though the Poets’ defense appeared wore down on the final score, Smith said the point of attack overall was the difference.

“We felt we were more conditioned,” said Smith. “We wanted to establish the line of scrimmage early and keep wearing them down.”

In the postgame huddle, Smith said this year’s team is a “bunch of nobodies.”

It may be hard referring to Dunbar, winners of nine state titles, as “nobodies” as the Poets appear ready to cast their shadow over the city league.

“The difference is with this team, they play together. They’re friends,” said Smith. “This team, they push each other. They like each other. This is like one of the teams we used to have.”

“We’re young, but the maturity level is very high,” said Lewis. “We’re like brothers on and off the field.”

No. 16 Dunbar 38, No. 11 Mervo 13

Mervo 0 0 0 13 – 13

Dunbar 0 8 30 0 – 38

First quarter

Dunbar – Graham 21 pass from Lewis (Crews-Harris run)

Third quarter

Dunbar – Graham 54 run (Brandon run)

Dunbar – Jackson 19 pass from Lewis (Crews-Harris run)

Dunbar – Graham 35 fumble return (Tolbert run)

Dunbar – Walker 59 pass from Lewis (run failed)

Fourth quarter

Mervo – Williams 24 pass from Davis (pass failed)

Mervo – Davis 33 run (Herman kick)