At first it seemed like a risky decision. On fourth and six, with his team nursing a narrow fourth-quarter lead, Friendship Collegiate quarterback Chris Ferguson was staring down a wide receiver streaking into the end zone.
The junior signal caller wasn’t aiming for the first down. He was aiming for the kill shot.
“I saw that the corners was pressed,” Ferguson said. “Coach [Mike] Hunter always told me, ‘On that play, when the corners press, we have to attack the corners on the corner route.’ ”
Ferguson lofted a pretty spiral to the corner of the end zone, and senior wide receiver Nykeim Johnson secured the touchdown to essentially put the game out of reach for H.D. Woodson. The score propelled Friendship Collegiate to a 19-14 victory in a rare meeting between the two District powers in Northeast Washington on Friday.
Fans spilled out of the stands at H.D. Woodson for a matchup that hadn’t been contested since the Warriors beat their neighboring charter school in the 2013 D.C. State Athletic Association Class AA championship. Afterward, Ward 7 council member Vincent C. Gray (D) presented Friendship Collegiate with a gold trophy that read, “Ward 7: Clash of the Titans.” Gray said both schools will try to make it an annual showdown going forward.
Friendship bounced back from a ghastly first half that saw the visitors commit 17 penalties. A safety resulting from holding in the end zone handed Woodson (2-1) the game’s first points, and a seven-yard rushing touchdown by Ferguson early in the second quarter was negated by another holding call. The Knights (4-0) followed that play up with two more penalties, eventually forcing them to punt on fourth and goal from the 37-yard line.
Friendship trailed 8-6 at halftime despite limiting Woodson to just 81 yards of offense.
“I said, ‘We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We’ve got to get better,’” said Ferguson, who exhorted his teammates alongside Johnson and Vaughn Taylor in the locker room. “We were keeping everyone’s spirit uplifted.”
A vaunted Friendship defense that limited each of its first three opponents this season to just one touchdown locked things down in the second half.
The Warriors’ high-octane attack finished with 225 total yards, capping a 77-yard drive late in the fourth quarter with a short touchdown pass to Calid Shorter. It proved too little, too late.
“This game actually proved to us that we can play with any team in the DMV area,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson completed only five of his 11 passes on the night, but two of them went for touchdowns. He also scampered into the end zone from 10 yards out midway through the third quarter to give the Knights their first lead, 12-8.
The capacity crowd started filing out one side of the stadium after Ferguson’s touchdown pass to Johnson. Jubilation — and District public school bragging rights — bubbled up on the other.
“Our kids were focused on football,” Hunter said. “All the extra stuff on the outside, that’s for the school and the fans. Our guys came to practice ready to work just like they always do.”