Friendship Collegiate’s defense asked for a game like this, tough and bruising between the tackles, free flowing and fast on the perimeter. Weeks of preseason workouts built up enough energy that had to come out somehow.
In a 12-8 win over Pallotti on Friday night in Laurel, the Knights’ defense got it.
“They told us to put the game on their back and they’d get it done,” Friendship Collegiate Coach Mike Hunter said. “They’re just not going to be denied.”
Senior cornerback Eldee Edwards ran a 70-yard interception back for a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter and the Knights’ defense grabbed four takeaways to hold quiet the Panthers’ high-octane offense .
The Panthers returned twin standout tailbacks and a Division I commit at wide receiver in Cameron Sullivan-Brown, but the Knights (1-0) also return most of their defensive backfield, including Edwards and cornerback Christian Braswell. The two played on Friendship’s varsity together since they were sophomores.
Pallotti had reached the Friendship 39 yard-line when Braswell glanced across the defensive backfield at Edwards. Double slants, Edwards thought, a play the two had studied together in film sessions leading up to the game.
Edwards broke to the outside and snared quarterback Brandon Stewart’s pass out of the air, then took off down the sideline.
“Nobody was going to catch me after I got the ball,” he said.
They didn’t, until Braswell got to him in the end zone after the play and slapped him on the right side of the helmet. The score put the Knights ahead 12-2, an insurmountable lead for Pallotti (0-1) even after senior tailback Jaret Patterson, a University of Buffalo commit, sprinted 81 yards for a score two possessions later.
He finished with 125 yards on 15 carries. Stewart threw for 76 yards on 10 of 21 passing.
Friendship predominantly moved the ball on the ground with a balanced attack of junior quarterback Christopher Ferguson (77 yards) and senior running backs Darell Oliver (49 yards) and Vincent Abney (28 yards).
Abney opened the scoring just before halftime with a two-yard run after breaking three tackles in the backfield. The run only worsened the tear in his jersey.
It ripped in last season’s opener, he said, and Hunter ordered a new uniform.
When that arrived, it ripped again the next game, and Abney said not to bother ordering another one. He runs too hard, he said, and his shirt is all defenders can grab on to.
On the touchdown, the jersey ripped halfway up the seam on his right side.
“All those offseason workouts,” he said, “I put it all in there on that play.”
Friendship also used Abney late to convert crucial short-yardage third downs. He broke a 10-yard run through three more Panther defenders on third-and-one with less than three minutes to play to help ice the game.
“If you run hard enough,” he said, “and break enough tackles, the defense won’t want to tackle you anymore.”