Second half surge give No. 7 Poets piece of Baltimore City football crown; Graham scores 3 TDs (VIDEO HERE!!)

Dunbar’s Raekwon Walker (11) tries to bring down Edmondson’s Deshawn Ruffin during Friday’s Baltimore City Division I football match. The No. 7 Poets clinched at least a share of the league crown with a 42-18 victory over the 18th-ranked Red Storm in west Baltimore. (photo – Jimmy Fields Sr.)

During the first half of Friday’s football rivalry match between Dunbar High and Edmondson, Poets defensive back/running back Alphonso Graham did some trash talking with the Red Storm sidelines.

He let his legs do the talking in the second half. No. 7 Dunbar defeated 18th-ranked Edmondson in a Baltimore City Division I contest in west Baltimore.

Graham scored three touchdowns for the Poets (7-1 overall), and senior quarterback Jared Lewis threw for two scores. Teon Gardner threw for two touchdowns and ran for another for the Red Storm.

For the ninth time in 11 years, the Orleans Street school claimed the Ben Eaton Memorial Trophy, in honor of the Dunbar coach who died shortly before the 2007 season. Even sweeter, the Poets clinched at least a tie for the city Division I title (6-0).

It’s their first league championship since 2014.

“We knew this was a big game for the city and the state playoffs,” said Lewis, who finished with 201 yards passing. “Today, we came out and showed why we’re No. 1 in the city.”

After a sloppy first half, Dunbar ran off 20 unanswered points to silence the Red Storm (7-2, 5-1 Division I). The Poets can thank the lightning quick Graham, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior transfer from Reginald Lewis.

Graham weaved his way into the end zone for a 15-yard score, giving Dunbar a 12-6 with 8 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Over a minute later, Graham got in front of a Teon Gardner throw to the sideline, and went untouched 70 yards for a “pick six.”

Graham, who helped Lewis to a perfect regular season last year and the city Division II crown, broke through a hole and sprinted 60 yards for his third score. He finished with more than 150 all-purpose yards Friday.

“He’s a game changer,” said Smith. “Every time he touches the ball, he does something. He’s a warrior.”

“I’ve seen this rivalry for a minute,” said Graham, “and to be a part of it and contribute to the team really helps.”

Sophomore Deon Crews-Harris recovered two fumbles and converted a trio of two-point conversions, and Malik McCormack intercepted a pass. Bakari Mack had a fumble recovery, and junior defensive linemen Dominic Smith recorded a sack.

The Poets scored 22 points off three Red Storm turnovers. Dunbar had three first half turnovers, but Edmondson failed to produce points.

The Red Storm was able to get on the board as Deshawn Ruffin hauled in Gardner’s pass on the final play of the first half. Edmondson recovered a Poet fumble inside the visitors’ 25-yard line on the first play of the second half, but turned the ball over on downs.

Dunbar mounted a five-play, 72-yard drive, highlighted by Lewis’ 46-yard pass to Andre Brandon. Graham finished the series with his 15-yard run.

Four plays later, Graham streaked down the Red Storm sideline for his 70-yard interception return. Three plays after McCormack’s interception, Graham left Edmondson in the dust.

“Once he gets to the second level, he’s got a gear and you’re just not going to get him,” said Edmondson coach Corey Johnson. “First half, we were on him. We weren’t giving him any creases, any room, so I thought we were going to do that second half, but he found a couple and he was just gone. He just has another gear and with somebody like that, if you don’t bring him down at that initial line of scrimmage, you’re going to be in trouble a lot of times.”

The Red Storm didn’t help their cause with penalties and five turnovers. Gardner, who split time with Damontaa Johns, finished with 148 yards passing (late touchdown pass to Justin Hawkins) and added an eight-yard run.

At halftime, Smith said he told his team “to settle down” and stop turning the ball. The Poets, who’ve outscored their city Division I foes, 232-59, can secure the league title outright with win over winless Patterson at Sugar Cain Field Friday.

“We got to finish out next week and then you got the first championship down. The second championship is the regional championship,” said Smith, whose team is back in Class 1A (was 2A prior four seasons). “We just have to do what we got to do at the next level and we’ll be good to go from there.”

No. 7 Dunbar 42, No. 18 Edmondson 18

Dunbar 6 0 22 14 – 42

Edmondson 0 6 0 12 – 18

First quarter

Dunbar – Wood 40 pass from Lewis (pass failed)

Second quarter

Edmondson – Ruffin 25 pass from Gardner (pass failed)

Third quarter

Dunbar – Graham 15 run (run failed)

Dunbar – Graham 70 interception return (Crews-Harris run)

Dunbar – Graham 60 run (Crews-Harris run)

Fourth quarter

Edmondson – Gardner 7 run (pass failed)

Dunbar – Crews-Harris 17 run (pass failed)

Dunbar – Walker 35 pass from Lewis (Crews-Harris run)

Edmondson – Hawkins 15 pass from Gardner (run failed)