With the kickoff of the 2014 high school football season quickly approaching, our reporters will be out at local practices checking in with contenders, dark horses and rebuilding teams alike as they gear up for the fall. Here is the latest installment of our Camp Countdown:
As Friendship Collegiate, quarterback Daquan Hawkins went through his progressions in Wednesday’s scrimmage against DeMatha at Heurich Park in Hyattsville, but he didn’t see an open reciever. Hawkins fled the pocket and gained about 20 yards before being met by a Stags defender. Hawkins was tackled to the ground, but his teammates quickly came to the young quarterback’s aid to lift him from the turf. The Knights were simply protecting their quarterback, but for a team that is starting anew in 2014 the moment meant much more.
First-year Coach Mike Hunter wants his team to play together and like a family this season after graduating a talented and deep senior class and being hit by the transfer bug — Richard Merritt (Carroll) and Ashton White (McNamara). It was a bit of a turnaround for a school that has thrived off transfers.
“No one touches the quarterback, it doesn’t matter if you’re on defense or on offense,” senior running back/linebacker Jay Cammon Jr. said. “As a matter of fact it’s not just the quarterback, we all fight for each other and we are all one team. We permanently instilled that in our minds.”
The Knights lost 24 seniors including blue-chip recruit Jalen Tabor (Florida) and standout running back Jonathan Haden (Arizona). They return eight starters and have just 15 seniors on the roster. Guiding a team of mostly sophomores and juniors who are seeing their first varsity action, Hunter — who spent seven years under former coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim who is now an assistant coach at Alabama — has used scrimmages and summer camp to bring the talented but unproven group together.
“We don’t need Superman, we just need every person on the team doing their job and we will be fine,” Hunter said. “We’ve got enough talent, and guys that want to compete and play together.”
With just more than a week until their first game the Knights have had a myriad of injuries. Two offensive linemen and a starting receiver, Edward Morgan, were held out of Tuesday’s scrimmage. Senior 6-foot-1, 270-pound linemen Wayne Sellers has a chipped bone in his foot and will miss three weeks. But Hunter said he’s the only player to likely miss the opener against St. Frances (Md.) Academy on Aug. 30.
The quarterback position is being settled between Hawkins and Quan Vines as both saw time at the position in the scrimmage. Both were on junior varsity last season. Whoever wins the job will be blessed with playing behind highly-recruited left guard Quarvez Boulware, who has a top five of Alabama, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Maryland and Florida. However, Boulware admitted to not being 100 percent healthy.
Morgan will be a playmaker at wideout, along with senior Khaleel Etheridge and Roman Sheffey who caught the lone touchdown pass in the contest. Cammon will see time at running back along with three other underclassmen.
“We’re really young, so the young guys have to step up a lot,” Boulware said. “They just have to work harder and get the job done.”
Boulware will also see time at defensive tackle, and Hunter expects a major impact out of 6-foot-2, 206-pound defensive end Kayon Whitaker. Whitaker missed several days with the flu, but was a constant presence in the DeMatha backfield Wednesday. Cammon and James Dumas will both be important pieces in the linebacker group. With Tabor gone in the secondary, Etheridge and others will be called upon to attempt to fill that void.
“The corners are going to be young,” Hunter said. “They’re little feisty guys, they aren’t real big, but they get after it.”
Known for their national schedule Friendship won’t be playing the same caliber of opponents as last season, but the Knights will still face tough Wilson and Bullis teams and a Gilman team that is being lauded as the best team in the state of Maryland heading into the year.
The Knights fell short of repeating as D.C. State Athletic Association AA champions last season as they fell to H.D. Woodson 25-8 in a rain-filled championship game. But they continued their tradition of sending a plethora of college players unto the next level — 18 seniors signed to play Division I football a year ago.
“We’re just going to keep fighting, we want to regain the D.C. State Athletic Association title and bring it back home,” Cammon said. “It’s about getting better and getting people into college. We’re going to continue that legacy since Coach Rahim left. I think Coach Hunter is doing a great job of continuing that legacy.”