Poly Prep beats Friendship Academy for the first time in four years
Ray Marten had butterflies in his stomach all week. When he woke up at 5 a.m. on Friday, his eyes were immediately wide open, and there was no way he was going to fall back asleep. He was too excited because the day he and his teammates had waited all year for had finally arrived — it was the day that Poly Prep would finally get its rematch against Friendship Academy (D.C.).
“We’ve been playing them for the past four years, and we’ve never beaten them,” said Marten, a junior defensive lineman with offers from Syracuse and Boston College. “Every year, we come out and we want to beat them so badly. It’s just never worked out. So we’ve been waiting for this game. It’s been marked on our calendars since the day our schedule came out. We called this week Friendship Week.”
Once that day finally came, the Poly Prep Blue Devils took full advantage of it as they beat Friendship Academy 33-7 in Bay Ridge on Friday night behind great defense and three touchdowns from quarterback Chris Parker.
“This was revenge,” Parker said. “We lost to them three times in a row, and this is my last year. I needed this win for myself and my teammates.”
Over the last four years, Poly Prep has always been a run-first team, so Friendship has been able to stop it by stacking the box against the run. The Blue Devils are still a run-first team, but this year, Parker worked hard in the first quarter to establish his passing game.
Once Friendship started to look for the pass, the Blue Devils went right back to the run. That’s when Parker broke loose for an 80-yard run that set up a one-yard touchdown run to go up 7-0 midway through the second quarter. On the next drive, they mixed it up again as Parker hit freshman Fara’ad McCombs with a 31-yard touchdown pass to go up 14-0
In the second half, Poly Prep stuck with what it does best as Parker ran in a 31-yard touchdown to go up 21-0. Brenden Femiano followed that up with a 26-yard run to make it 27-0 in the third quarter.
Given a huge lead, it was up to Poly Prep’s defense to hold it. Their target was Friendship running back Jay Common, who rushed for more than 300 yards the previous week.
“He was the guy we were worried about,” Poly Prep head coach Dino Mangiero said. “We just said that we have to get in the backfield and stop him before he gets going because he’s a good quality Division I football player.”
Poly Prep was able to execute its defensive strategy perfectly. Isaiah Wilson, Elias Reynolds and John Argast each had sacks, and Parker had an interception as Friendship was stopped in the red zone twice and went 2-for-6 on fourth-down conversions. When it finally did score, it was 27-7 midway through the fourth quarter, which was far too late to mount a comeback.
“[Defensive] coach [Kevin] Fountaine called a great game,” Marten said. “We blitzed a lot on the first down, which is something we haven’t done all year, so they weren’t expecting it. We came out, executed and we picked up a monumental win.”
After the game, Mangiero said the biggest difference between this year’s win and the last three loses to Friendship was good execution on Poly Prep’s end. Last year it turned the ball over three times, and this year it avoided turnovers altogether. He also gave a lot of credit to his quarterback.
“He’s the best football player that I’ve had at Poly,” Mangiero said of Parker, who has had at least three touchdowns in every game this season. “5-foot-6, 160 pounds soaking wet, he’s the best football player that I’ve ever had at Poly. He thinks he’s 6-foot, 215-pounds and he acts like it. He’s fast and smart. He’s such a good football player.”
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