With time running down in the fourth quarter Saturday and St. John’s making a desperate march downfield, Friendship Collegiate senior linebacker Yannick Ngakoue watched a teammate snag an interception and located the nearest Cadets player.
Moments later, after he had knocked a wide receiver to the ground with a vicious hit in front of the Cadets’ bench, Ngakoue swung his arms demonstrably at his opponent’s sideline.
The long interception return was negated by the taunting penalty Ngakoue was assessed. It mattered little.
Ngakoue and his Friendship teammates had made their point in a 21-6 victory over a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference opponent.
“Everyone still thinks Friendship out of D.C., we’re not that good, can’t beat the private schools,” said junior tailback Jonathan Haden, who rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. “Today, we proved that we could.”
This past week, Friendship was featured on a Sports Illustrated online video series titled “Underdogs.” It was the latest in a long list of positive publicity the D.C. public charter school has received since it went 9-1 last season. Despite his team’s rise to prominence, Friendship Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim said Thursday he didn’t believe his team had earned its notoriety because it had not yet “beat anyone of significance in my eyes.”
Following Saturday’s win, Abdul-Rahim acknowledged St. John’s counted as an opponent of significance.
“It’s a breakthrough,” Abdul-Rahim said. “This is the first time where we went in with a lot of people calling us ‘Paper Champions.’ So I think it’s very significant.”
St. John’s controlled the tempo at the outset, but an ankle injury to junior Devin Williams in the second quarter proved crucial.
In addition to being a high-caliber linebacker — he has orally committed to play the position at Stanford — Williams also is a solid fullback. He was the lead blocker on sophomore tailback Omar Garcia’s 24-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
With Williams out, Ngakoue wrecked havoc in the St. John’s backfield. Ngakoue finished with four sacks which cost the Cadets 40 yards.
Offensively, Friendship demonstrated a quick-strike ability that could torment opponents this season. Haden scored on a 64-yard run up the middle on the first play of a series in the second quarter. The Knights’ next offensive series ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from junior Deandre Parker to senior wideout Amonta Poteat.
“It came down to explosive plays,” St. John’s Coach Joe Patterson said. “And we needed to get more of them.”