It was being billed as the Battle of Northeast. Friendship Collegiate Prep has made its mark in recent years, most recently as 2022 DC State champion. The H.D. Woodson program has been a mainstay in DCIAA high school football over the past two decades.
The fact that the two schools are less than 10 minutes apart in far Northeast, D.C. added more intrigue. The stage was set for bragging rights. It was Friday night under the lights at H.D. Woodson in far Northeast Washington.
The game started out as one of two competitive programs battling it out, but after the Knights (4-1) took over the game following a 66-yard interception by defensive back Keyon Starkey-Webb, that spurred a 19-0 first quarter lead that Friendship never relinquished en route to a 45-12 win.
The Knights (4-1) came into the game ranked locally and showed why they are highly touted. On a day when the offense was not clicking early, it was the defense and special teams play that pretty much dictated the outcome.
Friendship Collegiate, which was coming off a 42-14 loss to Don Bosco dominated the Warriors (2-2) early forcing three and outs and taking advantage of poor punting.
With the short field, the Knights began to open up offensively in the second quarter on the running of senior running back Zaire Kennedy (14 carries, 110 yards, 2 TDs).
“The trip to California was a great experience for the kids,” said Friendship Head Coach Mike Hunter, in his 10th season at the Northeast school. “Some had never been to the West Coast or flown before. They spent four days together and played the Number 3 team in the country and the defending national champs. It is the kind of experience that helps the program. I think that it really showed tonight.’
Hunter went on to add that the interception return for a TD by senior defensive back Keyon Starkey-Webb jump started the team’s slow start.
“There is no question that it was big for us. From there, we began to settle in.”
The balanced Knights attack began to move the ball effectively as quarterback Darrin Richards (12 of 17, 162 yards, two touchdowns) found his rhythm with his talented senior wide receiver Michael Brown (five receptions, 86 yards).
The young Warriors (2-2), which have several underclassmen, had problems on offense all day, trying to contain the Friendship Dynamic Duo of senior linebackers Dyland Stewart and DeAndre Cook. The 6-3 bookends are regarded as two of the top players in the DMV area. Stewart has committed to the University of South Carolina while Cook will take his talents to nationally ranked Penn State.
Scores and statistics aside, this game was about more.
“We did not perform as well as we would have liked,” said H.D. Woodson Director of Athletics Phillip “Reesie” Morgan, after the game. “But the bigger picture was that I was happy those who came out to see the Battle for Northeast. We don’t have many games like this when two schools so close can get together and play before fans. There were no instances of poor sportsmanship at the end.”
“Anytime you get young African men together for something like this and at the end it brings the community together, it’s a win for the community,” said Hunter.
The Knights will look to continue their success when they take on Gonzaga tonight, Sept. 29, while the Warriors will look to get back on the winning side when they host Eastern High School at home.