After catching a deep pass to put his team up by two touchdowns, senior wide receiver Jalen Hamilton sprinted toward the Friendship Collegiate bench in elation.
This moment had been a long time coming. Since Friendship’s loss to Ballou in last season’s D.C. State Athletic Association Class AA title game, Hamilton’s phone screen carried a reminder of his team’s shortcomings — a photo of Ballou posing in front of the championship banner.
Hamilton and his Friendship teammates got a taste of redemption in a 13-0 shutout win over H.D. Woodson on Saturday at Eastern Senior High.
“I changed a lot of things I did from last year after losing another championship because it hurt me,” Hamilton said. “We worked on that play a couple of times this week, and we said if we execute it correctly it’s going to work out.”
Friendship (10-3) quickly got in front, as senior cornerback Amirr Abdul-Rahim intercepted a pass by Woodson quarterback Jordon Sharp and returned it for a touchdown midway through the first quarter.
“I just had to set the tone for the game with no points up,” Abdul-Rahim said.
Hamilton’s touchdown made the lead more comfortable for a Knights defense that came up big in the fourth quarter, forcing turnovers on consecutive Woodson possessions to close the game.
“It was defense, that’s what we do,” Abdul-Rahim said. “That’s what we’ve done all season.”
The Knights have won the DCSAA title twice in three years. Friendship’s last championship came against Woodson in 2016, a 13-0 shutout in the other direction.
“These kids work very hard, and we want them to get this feeling at the end of the year,” Friendship Coach Mike Hunter said. “This year we said we’re coming back to get out title.”
It was a bitter end to the season for a Woodson team (9-4) that won nine straight after dropping the first three games of the season.
Friendship had been in that position before, which made Saturday all the more sweet.
As the clock ran down, Hamilton bounced up and down the sideline congratulating his teammates on the win.
“It means a lot to win with this group of guys,” Hamilton said. “Some of these guys I’ve known since middle school, so it’s big to bring the championship back to Friendship.”
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