GREENBELT – Eleanor Roosevelt High School’s menacing defense combined for 14 sacks, limiting the Carver Vocational-Technical High School from Baltimore County to 51 yards of total offense, for a 41-0 shutout home win on Sept. 8.
The opening win starts the Raiders’ year on a positive note. Roosevelt waited an extra eight days to play their season opener after Bladensburg High School canceled their season and thunderstorms moved their match-up against the Bears on Sept. 7 to the weekend. Raider players “were desperate like drug addicts” to finally play a game, defensive lineman Treyvon Frith said.
“We were just ready to play,” sophomore running back Antwain Littleton said. “We waited in the locker room for four hours to play, but the thunder kept coming back. Some players went home angry (on Sept. 7) because they were not able to play and we had our game plan set up for us to play that day.”
The standout performance by the Roosevelt defense was due, in large part, by the linemen who penetrated Carver quarterback Jeffrey Richardson with ease.
While the group arrived at offseason workouts with low expectations because of their youth and inexperience that doubt slowly crept away. Sophomore defensive back Dranel Jiles finished with a team-high five combined sacks.
“In the last two weeks (of preseason), we had a lot of setbacks, but I think we did not regress and we got better,” said two-way lineman and team captain James Ballanger. “We started off slow, but we picked it up in the second half…We had the run block down, and we got better (during the game) and progressed. I feel great about it.”
The Raiders’ defensive performance came with a huge sigh of relief from Head Coach Thomas Green as the offense came out flat in the first half, turning over the ball three straight times in their first three possessions. Communication errors and ball-handling mistakes that led to six total fumbles were vital in Roosevelt losing the turnover battle against the Bears.
“In the first half, we turned the ball over six times; we got long runs but running backs are fumbling and the quarterback fumbling the snap,” Thomas said. “It is first-game stuff, but every year, the first game is a little rough, so we need to correct (the mistakes) and keep it moving.”
In the second quarter, defensive lineman David Alvarez and two-way athlete Matthew Wilson crushed Richardson in the middle of the end zone for a safety and gifted two points for Roosevelt.
After a 45-yard sprint by junior Khyrii Strong, the Raiders punched in their first touchdown of the season after Littleton finished off the drive with a 1-yard run into the end zone.
Littleton, a six-foot, 270-pound sophomore, became Roosevelt’s strongest asset in the red zone, finishing with 30 rushing yards. Green called his power runner “a non-high maintenance guy” willing to contribute for the team. Littleton punched through the Bears defense, adding two more touchdowns in the second half.
“If you are able to set the tone for the team, they will follow right behind you,” Littleton said. “Even with me as a sophomore, I feel like I am one of the leaders on this team.”
The Raiders offense began regaining composure in the third quarter with senior Delmetrius Cloyd running through two holes up the middle of the field to the end zone untouched for a 33-yard touchdown.
Meanwhile, the defense continued its stranglehold on Carver as the defensive line striped-sacked Richardson at the two-yard line with Ballanger picking up the loose ball for another Roosevelt touchdown.
With problems passing the ball, the running attack gave the Greenbelt-based team more firepower to advance their lead. Carver could only muster seven rushing yards as a team as Roosevelt, led by junior Dave Hines’ 90-yard performance on four carries, finished with 421 yards by eight different players.
Hines would send their Baltimore visitors home early in the fourth quarter with a 63-yard touchdown to start the running clock for their win.
The lopsided victory was not enough to hide issues the Raiders need to fix moving forward before their regional semifinals rematch against Charles H. Flowers High School on Sept. 14.
While they have played one game less than their Springdale counterparts, Thomas stated his team would need to bring the same intensity from last year’s playoff game to come away with a win.
“Normally, the mistakes we made today are first-game mistakes but unfortunately for us, it is week two and we got Flowers next,” Thomas said. “We will tighten up in practice and do the best we can to make it a really good game.”