Six days after Frederick Douglass High School’s football team lost a heartbreaking season-opener against Henry A. Wise, the Eagles still were feeling the effects of the hard-hitting contest.
Starting tailback Mikale Makle wasn’t able to play Friday against Ballou (D.C.) and sophomore quarterback Devin Butler was under orders not to run because of the physicality of that game. In fact, Eagles coach J.C. Pinkney decided to remove his trademark triple-option offense from his playbook in an effort to ensure Butler didn’t aggravate his injury.
That meant a large portion of the carries would fall to senior tailback Kenneth Freeman.
Just how large a portion?
Well, that answer shocked Pinkney.
“Damn!” Pinkney said as he took a step back after being told that Freeman carried the ball 26 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s 21-0 victory against Ballou Friday. “I don’t know the last time a kid from Douglass carried the ball 20 times in a game because we spread the wealth. With the triple option, you have no idea who’s going to get the ball from down to down. That’s unbelievable, man.”
A lot of what the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Freeman did on Friday was unbelievable as he was quick to the line of scrimmage and followed the gaping holes opened by his blockers. On the Eagles’ first drive of the game, he carried the ball six times for 50 yards and appeared to relish being the go-to back.
“The last time I had that many carries?” Freeman said. “Never. I’m a little sore, but I feel good. When [Pinkney] told me yesterday that it was going to be my day, I was excited.”
Freeman’s first touchdown was a 15-yard run in the second quarter and he capped his stellar day with a 1-yard rumble in the fourth. In between, Butler — who wasn’t supposed to be running — carried the ball seven times for 64 yards, including an impressive 20-yard touchdown sprint off-tackle in the third.
“You try to keep him from running the ball, he’ll find a way to run the ball,” Pinkney said with a laugh.
The game didn’t begin well for Douglass (1-1). Freeman was stripped by Knights (2-1) lineman Deangelo Treyham and he returned the ball to the Eagles’ 14-yard-line. From there, Ballou picked up a first down at the 5 and appeared poised to take an early lead. Instead, Douglass’ defense stuffed Knights running back Marquis Hamilton on third- and fourth-down attempts from the 1-yard-line.
“If we turn it over, that’s when the defense should be most excited about playing. If we can hold our ground right now, that can be a big blow against them, and that’s what we did,” Pinkney said.
Douglass then drove 98 yards only to have Ballou’s defense return the favor from the opposite 1-yard-line. Five minutes later, however, Freeman scored his first touchdown and the Eagles defense continued to dominate, holding Ballou (a team that outscored opponents 66-8 in its first two games) to 52 yards of total offense.
“We were a little flat. We don’t have any history with Ballou, and it showed, but I know our guys will be ready to go this week,” Pinkney said. “We’re in league play now and we’ve got Gwynn Park to try and save our season.”
As odd as it sounds, a playoff spot likely will be determined when the two bitter rivals face one another Saturday at Gwynn Park. The Eagles and Yellow Jackets have long battled for positioning in Prince George’s County’s 3A/2A/1A league and split the season series last year with Douglass knocking off Gwynn Park in the playoffs.
“We have to take control of our destiny,” Freeman said. “We can’t lose no more. We’ve got to get it done.”
Frederick Douglass 21, Ballou (D.C.) 0
Ballou (2-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Frederick Douglass (1-1) 0 8 6 7 — 21
FD — Kenneth Freeman 15 run (Charles Davis run), 6:58
FD — Devin Butler 20 run (pass failed), 3:29
FD — Kenneth Freeman 1 run (Devin Butler kick), 4:08
Ballou — Marquis Hamilton 11-26, Done’ Butler 6-23, Stefon Broadwater 5-11, Malik Pelham 1-4, Melvin Jones 1-2, Tirri Jones 6-(-14)
Frederick Douglass — Kenneth Freeman 26-165, Devin Butler 7-64, Charles Davis 9-40, Akiva Wedge 2-10, D’ondre Mackey 1-7, Kevin Freeman 1-(-4)
Ballou — Tirri Jones 2-6-0-1
Frederick Douglass — Devin Butler 3-8-40-1
Ballou — Malik Pelham 2-0
Frederick Douglass — Kenneth Freeman 2-29, Quinton Jordan 1-11