His senior quarterback, Jibril Scott, had thrown three interceptions — the first of which was returned for a touchdown just minutes into the game — and his usually high-paced offense had mustered just six points on fewer than 90 total yards.
So with 6:47 remaining in the fourth and the Crimson Tide trailing 12-8, Vaughn pulled his quarterback to the side, looked him in the eyes and said three words: “We need you.”
The simple pep talk proved to be enough. Scott immediately dropped a perfectly thrown 43-yard pass into the arms of teammate Tristan Waters. Moments later he capped off the drive with an 18-yard dart to Lawrence Grayson Jr. to give Dunbar a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I’m not really sure what was going on today, but I just couldn’t seem to get right,” Scott said. “But when I looked over at all our guys fighting to keep us in the game, I knew I had to shake back and make something happen.”
Saturday’s meeting, which featured two teams looking to rebound after being upset in the playoffs, wasn’t supposed to happen. Originally, Dunbar planned to open the year by traveling to Steubenville, Ohio.
But when that game fell through because of travel logistics, a rematch with Coolidge, which the Tide upended last season, made sense.
“[Coolidge Coach] Kevin [Nesbitt] and his staff are tough, and their teams always show up ready to play, so we knew that adding them would provide a good test,” Vaughn said.
Similar to last year’s game, Saturday’s contest was riddled with miscues and penalties. Coolidge and Dunbar combined for four turnovers and more than 350 yards in accepted penalties.
A third-quarter stretch featured the Colts being penalized on 12 of 15 plays. Colts fans voiced their displeasure throughout, and some threw bottles on the field as the game concluded.
“I think the main takeaway for both teams is that we have to pay more attention to detail and clean up our level of play,” Vaughn said. “Today was rough on everyone.”
Following Scott’s touchdown pass to take the lead, Dunbar forced a penalty-filled three-and-out. Then running back Michael Brown put the game on ice with a 24-yard touchdown run.
“We learned a good lesson today,” Brown said. “Sometimes games are going to be ugly, but you can’t hang your head. You got to lock in and do whatever it takes to get a win.”