Friendship Collegiate running back Kelvit Barrett couldn’t believe the space he was getting to run the ball during Saturday’s DCSAA AA semifinal against McKinley Tech, and neither could Jonathan Haden.
Although the open lanes were a product of Friendship’s superior size and depth on the line against the Trainers, the dominant rushing performance (Barrett and Haden combined for 213 yards and four touchdowns in the 43-0 win) also continued a trend during the second-half of the season, Haden said. Friendship’s line has been a centerpiece in three straight wins, and sophomore tackle Richard Merritt has been in the middle of it all.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Merritt has moved positions plenty in his two seasons. He started at left guard as a freshman, then was moved to right tackle at the beginning of the season. He’s played guard for two games this season – and after Friendship offensive lineman Quarvez Boulware was injured in the middle of the season, he had to move to left tackle.
“I did good,” Merritt said. “We play nationally-ranked teams, so it’s like, you’ve always got a good D-lineman. You’re not going to be a little kid. They’re big. They’re big like us, and strong. But I can handle them.”
Merritt broke through on the recruiting front this past summer, when he earned his first scholarship offer from North Carolina. He’s garnered other interest from Notre Dame, Penn State, Oregon, Virginia and Virginia Tech — and although it’s still too early to plan visits, he’s already planning a long list of football camps next summer, he said, including Maryland and West Virginia.
Merritt is poised to become Friendship’s next star lineman recruit (the Knights already have a pair of highly touted junior prospects in Boulware and DeMarco Royster), and Merritt said playing next to Derwin Gray as a freshman helped him understand tenacity. Gray was dominant in the Knights’ run to the DCSAA title last season, and Merritt hasn’t forgotten about it. The Knights will meet H.D. Woodson Friday night in their second consecutive title game appearance.
“I just saw him pancaking people, like, mauling people,” Merritt said. “That just made me want to play harder.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 7
The number of touchdowns produced by Northwest sophomore quarterback Mark Pierce in a 55-36 win over Paint Branch Friday night, helping the Jaguars advance to their first 4A state title appearance since 2004.
– Just as it has shown all season, Suitland wasn’t intimidated by the size of Meade in Saturday’s 4A semifinal - winning 46-25 to set up a state title matchup against Northwest.
– Briar Woods didn’t go by the book late in Friday’s Virginia 5A North region semifinal against Broad Run, but the Falcons were able to pull out a 37-34 win in a double-overtime thriller.
– Westfield trailed by 13 with less than six minutes to play, but found a way to get the job done in an upset win over Lake Braddock in the 6A North region semifinal Saturday. The Bulldogs will face No. 2 Centreville, which got past Stonewall Jackson.
– You can find updated playoff brackets for every region here.
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