Joseph Haden Jr. remembers the autumn afternoon in Fredericksburg eight years ago when his son, Joe Haden III, touched the football for the first time in an organized game.
The Battlefield Cougars were on their 1-yard line, when Haden Jr., the team's coach, called for the quarterback to hand off the ball to his son, the running back. Haden III sprinted right and, seeing a wave of defenders headed his way, cut toward the middle of the field and ran untouched into the end zone.
"First play, he goes 99 yards and scores a touchdown," Haden Jr. said. "I thought to myself, this kid might be different. He could be something special."
The younger Haden, now 15, is Friendly's starting quarterback, making dazzling plays for the Patriots, who are serious contenders to earn their first postseason berth since winning the 3A title in 1998.
Haden completed 14 of 25 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to a 40-0 victory over Fairmont Heights on Saturday. The Patriots have four victories, one more than they earned last season.
"He still hasn't even come close to reaching his potential, either," said Marcus Berry, Friendly's offensive coordinator. "He's still learning how to read a defense, but as a sophomore, he's ahead of any quarterback we've had here in the past eight years."
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound Haden has completed 49 of 97 passes for 996 yards and 10 touchdowns, with just one interception, orchestrating an offense that is averaging 28 points after averaging just 15.6 last year.
"My coaches prepare me very well for every game, and I know every little thing about what the other team's defense is going to do because we go over everything," said Haden, who moved to Fort Washington with his family as a seventh-grader. "We're always talking about the positives, even if I make a bad throw, and it feels good that my whole team has faith in me. I think our whole team is confident that we can win."
An Older Perspective
Suitland Coach Nick Lynch was curious. His football team, thoroughly outplayed by Largo in the first half, was behind by two touchdowns, marking the first time the Rams had trailed by double figures this season.
"I wasn't worried, but I wanted to know how we would respond, and what kind of character we had as a team," Lynch said. "We were in the hole, and that's a credit to how well Largo played, but I wanted to see what our team was made of. Would we give up or keep fighting?"
Lynch got his answer. The Rams dominated the second half and pulled out a 20-14 victory Friday to remain tied with C.H. Flowers atop the Prince George's 4A standings. Suitland hosts Flowers on Oct. 23.
Suitland tied the game on a 28-yard run by Monty Clayton in the third quarter and a 21-yard run by junior Navorro Bowman (11 carries, 114 yards) early in the fourth quarter.
On the kickoff following Bowman's score, sophomore Jerry Clinton forced a Largo fumble that Suitland junior Tyrone Washington recovered. On the next play, senior Robert Sanford ran 21 yards to give the Rams a lead they would not relinquish.
"I told our team not to try to get back into the game on one play, just try to play big on every down, and that's what they did in the second half," Lynch said. "Jerry and Tyrone each made a huge play for us. . . . I've been telling our young guys to contribute to the team when they are out there on the field -- they don't have to leave it all up to the seniors."
Kimpson: On Schedule
Bladensburg Coach Franklin Kimpson knew his team would have a tough time winning games during the first half of the season, but he has a more positive outlook for the final month.
"I look around the state and no team had harder games right off the bat than we did with Forestville, Gwynn Park and Potomac," he said. "Those are powerhouses who were in the playoffs last year and were very good teams, so we knew we would have a tough road."
But after losing its first five games -- four of which were against teams with winning records -- the Mustangs picked up their first victory of the season with a 26-14 win at Surrattsville on Saturday. The 26 points were seven more than the team had scored in its previous five games.
"Playing the good teams has prepared us for the rest of the games on our schedule," said Kimpson, whose team plays all of its games on the road while a new school is being built. "But look at the situation we're in, and we're doing the best we can."
A Big Impression
After missing Northwestern's first game with a groin injury, senior running back Ernest Nyarko hasn't missed a beat since returning to the field. Nyarko rushed for a career- and game-high 158 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to a 16-7 victory over Bowie on Saturday, marking the fourth consecutive game he has rushed for at least 100 yards.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Nyarko scored on runs of 54 and 2 yards to lead the Wildcats to their third consecutive victory. Nyarko started at cornerback last season but has made a seamless transition to offense; he has rushed for a team-high 537 yards on 59 carries and scored seven of his team's 11 touchdowns.
"He's not that big, so I think teams underestimate him," Coach Bryan Pierre said. "But I think he's one of the best running backs in the county."
Nyarko will be counted on heavily during the team's final four games, which will determine whether the Wildcats qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1998.
"Our goal is definitely to make the playoffs, and I feel we have a good chance as long as we win," Pierre said. "I think right now in our [league] the level of competition is pretty even and there are a lot of good teams."