RIVERDALE – At the end of halftime during a match against Parkdale High School on Sept. 22, the DuVal High School football squad emerged out of the woods behind the away bleachers, motivated to play. While the majority of his teammates’ away jerseys were still white and clean, running back Demaj Smith’s was the dirtiest.
From head to toe, Smith was covered in mud and grass markings, darkening the jersey to grey.
However, for the five-foot-seven, 155-pound tailback, the stains were badges of honor.
Since becoming the starting running back this season, the senior admitted he wants to live up to the legacy left behind by last year’s starter, David Dupree. The two runners are both friends and Smith says he wants to continue the successful running game that Dupree started at DuVal.
“That’s my brother,” Smith said. “He taught me a lot, and whenever we run (this season), we have to keep it going, just like last year.”
“He may be the smallest on the field, but he is one of the hardest players we have,” quarterback Akil Woods Jr. said.
Smith led the way for the Tigers with 121 yards on 15 rushing attempts; He scored one touchdown on the ground had a receiving score for good measure.
With Woods throwing for 130 yards, accounting for four touchdowns and the Tigers defense forcing three turnovers on the other end which was more than enough to drop the Panthers, 38-0, in this year’s edition of the Good Luck Road rivalry.
The shutout victory gave DuVal (3-1) their second straight victory since their 12-10 loss at home against Gwynn Park on Sept. 8. Tigers Head Coach Carlos Lockwood called it a “complete performance” by his football team, including having scored points in every quarter.
“We have been working for this all week, and we needed to come out and play a full game of football,” Woods said. “And all the practicing showed (on the field), and we got the win.”
Early on, DuVal proved their offensive prowess over Parkdale by scoring on their first three drives.
First, Woods’ screen pass to senior Aljareek Malry ended on a 15-yard scoring play. On their following offensive possession, Smith capped off a 14-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
That success continued throughout the game in large part of the impactful performance from the DuVal’s defense and offensive line. The Tigers limited Parkdale to only 109 yards of total offense, including nine passing yards. Meanwhile, a week’s worth of focused practice gave Woods time to throw the ball downfield and the line provided holes for Smith to run through.
After Smith’s second quarter rushing touchdown, DuVal recovered possession back right away when senior linebacker Robert Curtis stripped sacked quarterback Ta’Ron Hewan and recovered the fumble.
Woods quickly capitalized after the turnover, taking his time to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to an open Cameron McMillion, furthering their lead by 21 points.
“I think the (offensive line) responded well today and we will go as far as they take us,” Lockwood said when asked about his offense’s success. “We average around 270 (pounds) in the o-line; that is a big o-line for P.G. County high school football.”
DuVal continued its dominating performance in the second half. The Tigers wide receivers completed their opening three receptions of the half, including a leaping catch by senior Ishmael Smith for a 7-yard touchdown catch. Midway through the third quarter, sophomore cornerback Ryane Birun got the Tigers defense first of two interceptions of the game.
Following the turnover, it only took one play for Woods to finish off Parkdale (2-2) for good, throwing a play-action pass down the right sideline to Smith for a 54-yard touchdown reception.
The final touchdown dashed the hopes of the home crowd who hoped the Panthers would continue their momentum forward after back-to-back victories to start the season. Parkdale has not defeated their Good Luck Road rival since 2010.
“I am a Parkdale alum, and I played on this field; (Parkdale Head Coach Stanley Hall) coached me as our offensive coordinator when I was in high school and these guys are friends,” Lockwood said. “We are the team on Good Luck Road, but Hall has a good up-and-coming team moving forward.”
In his postgame speech, Lockwood reminded his players to stay consistent, and that will be the key for their success after the convincing win over Parkdale. They will take on High Point on Sept. 29 but will then face the toughest part of their schedule in October with games against Eleanor Roosevelt, Potomac and Oxon Hill in consecutive weeks.
“Per position, I think we are one of the most talented teams in the county but we have to put it together,” Lockwood said. “Defense wins championships but for me, offensively, right now, we need to score points, control the ball and let the defense do its job.”