Football team heads to semi-finals tomorrow, after a thrilling season

A win would take Roosevelt to the Turkey Bowl for first time in 42 years

Inches away from their first Turkey Bowl game since 1979, the mostly undefeated Rough Riders football team ended the season with a 9-1 record, their only loss being against Archbishop Carroll High School, a Catholic school outside of Roosevelt’s division.

They play Wilson on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the semi-finals on the Cardozo field, the winner of which goes to the city championship Turkey Bowl game to be played on Thanksgiving.

“We should beat these guys pretty good,” said head coach Chris Harden, who has played football all his life and led the team to number one in the DCIAA. Roosevelt previously played Wilson and won 36-6.

Photo by Bryan Rodriguez @b.prolificc, used with permission

Roosevelt’s team began this season unranked, but moved into and up the rankings each week, win by win. The Washington Post now ranks Roosevelt at #16 in the whole DMV area and they are the team to beat. Just 2 years ago, Roosevelt was a Division 2 school, until winning the DCIAA Stripes League championship, which bumped them up to the Stars League (which equates to D1).

“We them youngins they been sleepin’ on,” Coach Chris can be heard on a video shouting to his players during a practice.

A big impact on this year’s team is the seniors, Harden said in a Wednesday press conference with the Honors English II class. Among their skills and teamwork, the seniors provide leadership in the team and carry on their wins. Another strength has been the offense.

This year the team has been wiping schools out by 20+ points. Eastern (54-0) and Ballou (68-12) received the worst of what Roosevelt can do, not to mention Roosevelt’s homecoming win against H.D. Woodson with a score of 20-12.

“The offense was one of the most high powered offense in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area,” Harden said.

He credited his entire staff and the work that goes on behind the scenes for the success, including Dean Adrian Warren and Mr. Moore who also coach. “It’s not just me. I might be the face of the whole deal, but my whole coaching staff does wonders,” he said.

Saturday’s game is win or go home, with the winner slated to play the winner of another Saturday game, Dunbar vs. H.D. Woodson. Getting to the Turkey Bowl is the immediate goal. When asked who he would like to play, he was quick to answer, “Either one. We played both teams already and won, so I’m pretty confident that we can beat both.”

Either way, Harden said it is going to be a big time Turkey Bowl since there wasn’t one last year, and that H.D. has a big following, as does Dunbar. 

However, Harden is a Dunbar alumni and played for the team when he was in high school. “If it’s a Dunbar vs Roosevelt, that’s definitely going to be crazy,” said Harden, who has been to the Turkey Bowl every year since he was a player for Dunbar.

Another reason for the rivalry between Roose and Dunbar is that Dunbar started a meme related to Omar, a main character in The Wire. Someone photoshopped Dunbar’s logo over Omar’s head and Roose’s logo over the neighborhood kids who run in fear of him. At the start of Dunbar’s Homecoming game against Roose they played Omar whistling as he does in the show.

In the end however, Omar dies, and Dunbar lost. A Twitter user captured Harden after the victory, pumping up the team. “Omar went down by the person they stepped on, a youngin,” Harden told the team. “We them youngins! WE THEM YOUNGINS!”

Although he received a lot of phone calls before the game, “after the game we didn’t get too many calls,” Harden joked, acknowledging that he did receive many congratulations by text. “It’s a lot of their phones that were on Do Don’t Disturb after the game. But now they back alive, and saying ‘We’ll see you in the Turkey Bowl.’”

Looking into the future, the Turkey Bowl winner goes to the state Championship game, the DCSAA League, which includes all the D.C. schools – public, private and charter. If it gets to that, Harden said his team would like another shot at Archbishop Carroll, who he believes we could beat. 

For now, all eyes are on Saturday. Harden said the strategy for that game is, “Play hard, play fast, and play like a bat out of hell. That means go hard. Play without remorse.”