While his teammates stretched during halftime Friday night, H.D. Woodson quarterback Rashad Cooper snuck away to the equipment bag by the bench. He pulled out a football and ran out to midfield by himself, starting to run play-action fakes against an imaginary defense, rolling out and making cuts against defenders made of air.
“I just wanted to make sure I was hitting, that I was ready,” Cooper said.
It was Cooper’s way of staying in the right mental place during Friday night’s D.C. State Athletic Association AA title game against Friendship Collegiate, a way to use his imagination. In that time alone, he visualized a big play early in the second half.
But a long touchdown pass on the first play? That seemed too good to be true. Yet after Cooper hit All-Met D’Andre Payne with a 54-yard touchdown pass to open the second half, the quarterback and his teammates affirmed something they knew all along: They were simply the best team in the city this season.
Cooper threw for 186 yards and three touchdowns, and H.D. Woodson’s defense was dominant as the Warriors beat Friendship Collegiate, 25-8, to win the school’s first DCSAA title at Catholic University in Northeast.
“I just executed, tried to get the ball in the hands of playmakers, let them make plays,” Cooper said. “We just came out and proved that we’re number one.”
The Warriors (11-3) finished the season on a 10-game winning streak, but this final victory was the most resounding statement of all, coming against Friendship Collegiate (7-5), a team loaded with major college prospects and tested against some of the country’s best teams this season. It started with Cooper, who set the tone when he hit Payne on the team’s first play from scrimmage for a 31-yard gain, setting up a five-yard touchdown pass from Cooper to Daijon Carson to make it 6-0.
That started one of the best performances of Cooper’s career on a night when torrential rain swamped both teams. But there were plenty more showcase performances from H.D. Woodson’s defense and special teams: Dereon Carr intercepted two passes, the first of which set up Cooper’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Parnell Motley right before halftime.
After Cooper hit Payne to open the second half for a 19-0 lead, Motley blocked a punt and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Motley added an interception in the end zone for good measure, giving him a pivotal play in each of the three phases of the game. It was a signature night for the defensive-minded Warriors, who with players such as Payne, held opponents to a combined 88 points during their 10-game winning streak.
“We worked hard all year,” said Payne, who was named the game’s MVP. “We were pretty much the underdogs. We were supposed to get beat by 30 points . . . so we just came out. We didn’t talk. We just came out and played football.”