Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

There was great anticipation for this year’s 51st annual Turkey Bowl, after the football classic had to be canceled last year due to the pandemic.

This year, Warriors from HD Woodson High School in Northeast, participants in five of the last seven games, battled the upstart Rough Riders from Theodore Roosevelt from Northwest, whose last appearance dates back to 1998.

In the end, it would be Roosevelt, led by his star quarterback, Khalil Wilkins, who proved to be the difference with far greater firepower as HD Woodson won 37-22 in front of an audience of over 7,000 at Eastern Stadium.

Early on, it looked like the Warriors (6-5) would set the tone as they forced a fumble and turned it into an early 8-0 lead on a Lee Novaun race. Carried by the early success, HD Woodson kept the powerful Rough Riders-powerful offensive under wrap, preventing them from getting into any rhythm.

Then the Rough Riders (11-1) turned to Khalil Wilkins, who comes off the bench for senior starter Kerry Burns. The talented 6-3 sophomore accounted for his team’s first point, finding receiver Derrick Hawkins from five yards and then adding the two-point conversion in a hurry.

The Rough Riders defense forced an HD Woodson turnover on his next possession, and it didn’t take long for Khalil to get his team on the boards as he teamed up with Antonio Wilkins on a beautifully thrown 60-yard pass. The two-point conversion gave Theodore Roosevelt the lead at 16-8 to close out the first half.

“We came out a little flat,” said Rough Rider head coach Christopher Harden, DCIAA Coach of the Year. “But the team never wavered. We regrouped with our defense until the attack got us started. We fell to after that.”

HD Woodson made it interesting as Lee took a pass, swept to the right and found Amari Thomas on a 14-yard hookup that reduced the deficit to 16-14 late in the third period.

But the celebration would be short-lived as Roosevelt unleashed his potent offensive with Khalil and returning Juan Pratt taking over the game. First, Khalil completed a 70-yard drive with a one-yard dive, and then Pratt, a junior and one of several recurring underclassmen, made his presence known and scored on back-to-back TD races at seven and 77 yards to give his team its first title since 1979.

Juan finished with 181 yards on just 11 balls. Khalil, who is remarkably ready for a young player to appear on the big stage, displayed a range of skills on midfield passes, the deep ball and a sliding running style.

“We worked hard all season to get to that point,” said Khalil, who finished six of 10 for 147 yards and two TDs. “Everyone went up today in defense, special teams and offensive.”

Harden added of his budding stars: “There’s not much we can not do when it comes to Wilkins. He has the composure and talent to become an excellent player for the next two years. He and Pratt give us two players “who is capable of making great games at any time. It’s a wonderful luxury to have.”

The Rough Riders hope to end a history book season when they meet Archbishop Carroll Lions of the Northeast for the DC State Association Championship on Saturday, December 4 at Georgetown University at

“We had some goals that we set at the beginning of the season,” Harden said. “The first was to win the league, then win the Turkey Bowl and then finish it off with the state championship.”

It has been a long drought for a program that once reigned as a dominant force in the DCIAA.

“This was for our fans, alumni and communities who have supported the program throughout all the lean years,” Harden added.

Photo by D. Kevin McNeir - Senior Editor

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service to the Black Press (NNPA). Before moving east to help his aging parents, the native Detroit made a transformation of The Miami Times, which resulted in it being named the NNPA’s Publication of the Year “in 2011 – just one of several dozen industry-related awards he has won in his career. He currently serves as senior editor of The Washington Informer. There, in the heart of the US Capitol, he shows a keen insight into developing front-page news as they unfold in the greater Washington area, capturing the crucial facts and facets of today’s exciting political arena. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Emory University and Princeton Theological Seminary. In 2020, he received First Place for Weekly Newspaper, Commentary & Criticism, Society of Professional Journalists, Washington, DC Pro Chapter. Learn more about him at www.dkevinmcneir.com, Facebook – Kevin McNeir, Twitter – @mcneirdk, Linkedin – D. Kevin McNeir or email: mcneirdk@washingtoninformer.com.


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