Friendly’s football season hasn’t gone exactly as senior cornerback Alameen Murphy and his teammates hoped it would. The Patriots (4-4, 3-3 Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) are still alive in the Maryland 2A standings, though barely after a few blown leads and three losses by less than a touchdown each.
But for Murphy, who’s headed to Stanford next season, disappointing results on the field do not a failed season make. As his team has tried to turn around its season on the field, several of his teammates have turned around their grades off of it, something Murphy says is just as important.
“We came in and we said we’re going to have a whole bunch of kids try to get into college and try to get good grades. And we have probably about six or seven seniors on honor roll, 12 varsity players on honor roll,” Murphy said. “So that’s a pretty good accomplishment. We felt good about that.”
Because of that elevated commitment to good grades, the Patriots have seen the emergence of players who’d been kept off the field for academic reasons in the past. Murphy says he’s particularly proud of return man/running back/highly-recruited cornerback Ravon Davis and quarterback Tarik Smith III, who’ve both bolstered Friendly’s high-flying, pass-happy offense this season.
“[Smith] didn’t play last year [for academic reasons], but now he’s come back and he’s on the honor roll and having a good season. He makes mistakes just like anybody else, but I’m proud of him because he was a kid that was ineligible last year and he’s found out what he has to do, and now he’s doing well in his grades,” Murphy said. “Also, Ravon Davis. He’s another kid who missed a couple seasons for academics, but now he’s on the honor roll, too.”
Murphy said Davis is so talented he could probably be choosing between “Alabama and Oregon” had his academics lined up sooner, but that learning the importance of committing to work in the classroom is something that happens for different people at different times.
“Me personally, I knew coming into high school how important grades were, and my coach said: ‘If you do this, and do this, and do this, there’s no way you can’t get into college,'” said Murphy, who’s undecided about what he’ll major in at Stanford. “All I heard was ‘get good grades.’ And that’s the only thing that separates me from anyone else on my team, is that I understood that early and they’re picking it up late.”
With Davis and Smith firmly in the fold, the Patriots still have a chance to make a statement — and perhaps even a playoff run — when they take on Surrattsville (7-1) this week and juggernaut Gwynn Park (8-0) in the regular season finale. Friendly currently sits sixth in the Maryland 2A South standings, with Howard County’s Hammond (5-3) and Anne Arundel’s Southern (5-3) in the way of the fourth and final playoff spot in the region. They’ll need to win out and get some help to find their way into the playoffs.
“We came in with high expectations, and it’s been a bumpy road, but we feel like if we can finish this season strong with two wins against two good teams, we feel that our season is an accomplished one,” Murphy said. “It all falls back to execution and focus. We would get up on teams and then go into cruise control and teams would come back in the game and we’d end up losing in tight games….It’s a learning experience, and it’s better to learn it now then to go out into life and not know that this is what you have to do to stay on top or do well in life.”
And as important as lessons learned from on-field mistakes are to Murphy and his teammates, he says part of being a Friendly football player is understanding that there are similarly important lessons that must be learned off it.
“[Grades] is something that’s been preached constantly in our locker room and our study halls: everyone on our team, no matter who you are, the lowest kid on the bench to the highest kid, knows the importance of grades,” Murphy said. “We made sure that was a big part of our foundation of our team. If you’re going to play here, you’re going to have good grades no matter what.”