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F-E gets lesson from 'best'
(Published September 5, 2005)

By ERIC HAMILTON
Special to The Common Denominator

CLEVELAND Years from now when the Friendship-Edison football team is among the best in the District and fighting for a championship, Head Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim will look back on days like Aug. 27 and maybe manage a smile.

The Knights, in just their second year of varsity football, trekked to northeastern Ohio to take on mighty St. Ignatius, one of the top high school football programs in the country. The Wildcats have won a record eight big-school state championships and routinely send players on to Division I college football.

The outcome was about as favorable as Abdul-Rahim could have hoped for. In 2004, the Knights lost 56-0 to Ignatius. This year, the final score was 58-6.

"I knew what we were getting into," said Abdul-Rahim. "They are one of the top five teams in the nation. But we don't want to duck competition. We want to play the best and if we take our lumps, it's OK. When we deserve to be successful, then we'll be successful."

It was clear from the very beginning that Friendship-Edison was out-numbered, overmatched and in for a long night. Ignatius, which has at least two players already committed to Notre Dame next season, scored on each of its five possessions in the first half and led 46-0 at halftime.

Meanwhile, the Knights' offense was stuck in reverse in the opening half, going 0-for-7 on third down and ending the half with minus 20 yards of total offense.

Despite what many would consider a disastrous first half, Abdul-Rahim didn't scream or chastise his players during the intermission. Just like everyone in the stadium, he knew victory would escape his team on this day and there was nothing he could say that would change that.

But he wasn't measuring success by what the scoreboard read or how many points the Knights scored. As long as his players kept getting up every time Ignatius knocked them down, victory was at hand.

"At halftime, I wasn't angry about the score," said Abdul-Rahim. "All I wanted to see was a consistent effort from these kids. I have to convince this team that they are better than they are.

"Bringing them into an environment like this can have a lot of positives. How many times can a kid say they played against the best in the country? If they know that they can come in here and play with the best, what's to keep them from thinking they can compete with the teams in our district?"

In the second half, Friendship-Edison gave its coach the effort he was looking for. The Knights blocked a little better, ran a little faster and smiled a little more. Football was a little more fun.

Ignatius, playing its third string, continued to dominate and with its sheer talent did pretty much whatever it wanted. But Friendship-Edison continued to plug away, just trying to get better on every play.

Suddenly, the offense started moving the ball. On their first drive of the second half, the Knights recorded their initial first down of the game. Things were finally starting to click.

With sophomore quarterback Delonte Williams leading the way, Friendship-Edison started looking like a football team that could be successful.

The Knights put together an impressive 13-play, 79-yard drive, holding the ball for over six minutes. Working from the gun option set, Williams began picking apart the Ignatius secondary.

After going 0-for-7 on third down in the first half, Friendship-Edison converted 3-of-3 in the same situation during this series. But the biggest conversion of the drive came on a fourth-and-13 play at the Ignatius 13.

Williams connected with senior Adam Madden on a slant pattern over the middle for a 13-yard touchdown and the Knights' first score of the game.

The score cut the Wildcats' lead to 46-6, but it meant a lot more than that. It was a visible sign to the players that they could be successful if they believed that they could even against a team that seemed to be invincible.

"It showed them that if they work hard, then we can compete against any other team on our schedule," said Abdul-Rahim. "Even though we really got beat tonight, I told the kids to remember this feeling and play to a level
where they won't have to experience this again."

Williams, who wasn't even in the Knights' program last year, was one of the bright spots for Friendship-Edison. He completed 12-of-29 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted three times, but just once in the
second half.

"He played extremely well," said Abdul-Rahim. "He was playing club ball last year and just came into our program. He threw his first-ever varsity touchdown pass tonight and his poise was excellent.

"This was a good opportunity for all these kids to go on a trip away from home and play football against the best in the country. It's an experience that not many kids from D.C. get to have. It's something these kids will
always remember."

ST. IGNATIUS 58, FRIENDSHIP-EDISON 6

Friendship-Edison 0 0 6 0 6
St. Ignatius 30 16 6 6 58

ST. IGNATIUS Robby Parris, 39 pass from Rudy Kirbus (Joe Kinney kick)
ST. IGNATIUS Mike Rossi, 30 interception return (Kinney kick)
ST. IGNATIUS Kirbus, 6 run (Kinney kick)
ST. IGNATIUS Safety, punter tackled in end zone
ST. IGNATIUS Nick Secue, 25 run (Kinney kick)
ST. IGNATIUS Kirbus, 11 run (Kinney kick)
ST. IGNATIUS Safety, punter tackled in end zone
ST. IGNATIUS Brian Mendelsohn, 46 run (Kinney kick)
FRIENDSHIP-EDISON Adam Madden, 13 pass from Delonte Williams (pass failed)
ST. IGNATIUS Matt Merletti, 46 run (kick failed)
ST. IGNATIUS Jared Roberts, 23 run (kick failed)

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator