In describing Central High School quarterback Damarii Sumpter, coach Ken Amaker used a word several times not normally associated with freshmen.
“He’s real poised for a young guy,” Amaker said. “He’s played a lot. He’s ready to compete. I thought he could help us on the varsity so we moved him up.”
Sumpter, who took over the starting duties three weeks ago, threw a touchdown pass and engineered the winning drive in 22-14 Falcons’ victory Monday at Fairmont Heights in the inaugural Addison Road Bowl.
It was his first win as a starter and improved Central to 2-4 overall, 1-3 in the County 3A/2A/1A League.
In leading the Falcons down a muddy field in a tie game in front of a boisterous rival crowd, Sumpter looked like he’d done it all before.
“I was nervous my first game at Surrattsville, then after that — Forestville and this game — I’m never nervous,” he said of his new role. “I’m just relaxed.”
The game-winning drive came after Fairmont Heights had intercepted a Sumpter pass and drove 35 yards to tie the game at 14, but Sumpter wasn’t dwelling on that when he came back out on the field.
“I was just thinking, ‘My team is going to go down and score and win the game,’” he said.
And it did, going 62 yards in 11 plays. Junior Deion Peterson rushed for 38 yards on the final drive while Sumpter completed both of his pass attempts for 18 yards.
Peterson eventually scored from the 1-yard line, but not before the quarterback suggested a different play to his coach.
“I asked him, ‘What’s the play?’ I said, ‘QB sneak?’ But he said, ‘No,’” Sumpter said, laughing.
Sumpter gave Central the lead late in the first half when he found senior Kamron Gayle for an 18-yard score.
“He did a lot of good things in boys’ club football,” Amaker said. “He’s real poised for a 14-year-old. Got a pretty decent arm. He’s got a lot of strengths.”
Sumpter said he expected to be the Falcons starting quarterback, but not until next year. Amaker decided to speed up the timetable.
“Davonne Gray was starting,” Amaker said of he senior. “We thought we could use his athleticism in a lot of places because we had the young guy that could do it [at quarterback].”
In fact, Gray’s athleticism played a big role in Monday’s win as he returned an interception for a 68-yard score.
Sumpter meanwhile will continue to get on-the-job training for what could be a lengthy tenure as the Central starting quarterback. In addition to working on his completion percentage, he said he also wants to get faster.
“I’ve got to work on my speed. The speed of the game is real fast and I’ve got to get faster,” he said. “So I’ll be running track.”