Friendship Collegiate Coach Aazar Abdul-Rahim, shown here speaking to his team after a game last fall, is designing a schedule that he hopes will take his program to new heights in 2013.

On Feb. 6, Friendship Collegiate held a signing day ceremony for 20 of its football players at the school – and the hoopla surrounding the event was a symbol of the heights that Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim has taken the program to.

Abdul-Rahim’s mission is to get even more of his players college scholarships next season, and one of the primary ways he plans on accomplishing that is by playing one of the nation’s most difficult schedules. He plans to take Friendship on multiple trips to Florida and New Jersey, and possibly to Philadelphia and Las Vegas.

“On a program side, we want to continue to improve,” Abdul-Rahim said. “The only way for you to improve is to play high quality competition.”

Friendship, which finished 2012 at 8-3 and won the inaugural DCSAA state championship last December, will open the 2013 season against Atlantic High School in Del Ray Beach, Fla. on Aug. 24. Three weeks later, the Knights will return to the Sunshine State to play perennial national power Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla. on Sept. 13. Following that game, Abdul-Rahim said he is still trying to work out a possible matchup with Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas on Sept. 27, but that game hasn’t been finalized. He also hasn’t finalized a potential contest with Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day, which will likely take place in Philadelphia on Oct. 25 or 26, he said. Friendship beat the New York school 26-6 last October.

Friendship Collegiate will host New Jersey power Don Bosco on either Oct. 11 or 12, followed by a trip to that state the following week to take on Bergen Catholic. On November 2, Friendship will also travel to New Jersey to play Paramus Catholic, which defeated Bergen Catholic in the non-public Group 4 state championship back in December.  Friendship lost to both of those teams last fall.

Abdul-Rahim said many of the schools that he is matchmaking face the same scheduling challenges as Friendship – which struggles to find local teams that want to play year in and year out, he said. The trips have to make sense financially as well, and Abdul-Rahim said promoters and schools often time provide most of the funding to travel. It will be the most difficult schedule in Abdul-Rahim’s career, but is also a mark that the program is continuing to grow its national profile.

“First and foremost our mission is to get our kids as much exposure as possible,” Abdul-Rahim said. “A majority of these schools are prominent high schools that send a lot of kids to Division I programs so if we’re competing against these schools then our kids may get those Division I looks.”