Eastern defensive back John Johnson finished practice Wednesday night and only had one player from the Bell football team on his mind.
The Griffins’ running back, senior Charles Brooks, is on a 2,000-yard pace again, aided by a 353-yard, six-touchdown effort against Cardozo two weeks ago. Brooks spoke almost matter-of-factly about it, even though the performance included a 95-yard score, and claimed that “I was just running.”
“It was a steady flow of ‘I just want to say consistent’, but big plays at the same time,” Bell Coach Desmond Alexander said. “He’s an incredible talent and our offensive line was blocking well.”
There are only two teams that have managed to keep Brooks under 100 yards in a game the past two seasons, and Bell faces one of them this week in a Gravy Bowl rematch at Cardozo Friday night. The Griffins and fellow DCIAA Stripes frontrunner Eastern will meet for another battle between contrasting styles following a trio of entertaining games a year ago.
The Ramblers hope to again corral Brooks, who they limited to just 91 yards during last year’s 33-13 win in the Stripes division championship game at Cardozo.
“It’s about one player,” Johnson said. “The more we put pads on him, the more he’s not going to want to run no more.”
Bell (4-1, 2-0 DCIAA Stripes) took the two regular season meetings in 2014, with its bruising ground attack winning out over Eastern’s big-play passing offense. Brooks had a 231-yard, three-touchdown outburst in a 44-22 win last October. Ramblers quarterback Jarome Johnson countered by throwing for 811 yards and 11 touchdowns in three games combined against the Griffins.
With Friday approaching, Brooks can’t stop thinking about the last one, either. Cardozo’s field is both the scene of one of his few letdowns and the place he just set a career high.
“It means a lot,” Brooks said. “It’s basically a big payback game.”
Eastern (4-3, 3-0) is aiming for a return to the DCSAA playoffs after a rocky 1-3 start to this season. The Ramblers have reeled off three-straight division wins since a 38-0 running clock loss to Wilson last month, with Johnson increasingly connecting with wide receivers Traevon Battle, Brian Mason and Taequon Burton.
Brooks, who also plays defensive back, is currently averaging more yards per game (226) than he did during last year’s 2,213-yard campaign. Bell enters Friday riding a four-game win streak, but this will likely be the Griffins’ toughest game since a season-opening loss to Ballou.
Bell led McKinley Tech, 8-7, last Friday before the game was called due to lightning. The DCIAA announced those postponed games will be made up during an unannounced date in November. Eastern played last Thursday and beat Phelps, 50-0.
“It’s just a quality test,” Alexander said. “It lets us know where we are at this point. We anticipate that this is going to be a team that we see again.”