Friendship's Yannick Ngakoue (left) and Derwin Gray (right) will take the field with their fellow Knights against Dunbar in Saturday's DCSAA Championship.
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- On Saturday afternoon, Dunbar and Friendship Collegiate Academy will take the field at Howard University's Greene Memorial Stadium for the inaugural DC State Athletic Association (DCSAA) Football Championship.
"We've always felt like we've been the best team in DC the last three or four years, but we didn't have the opportunity to prove that and now we can put our money where our mouth is," said Friendship head football coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim.
The DCSAA was created by the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The association expanded the scope and duration of the District's football season this year by introducing a charter school playoff bracket.
Last May, when the DCSAA was launched, the plan was for the city's non-public and charter schools to compete for a title and advance to a championship game against the winner of the Turkey Bowl -- the public school championship between schools in the DC Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA). This year, the DCSAA playoffs did not include any private schools. The bracket was comprised only of charter school teams.
Dunbar defeated Anacostia 12-8 at the Turkey Bowl and Friendship blanked KIPP 51-0 in the charter school division to claim their spots in the inaugural State Football Championship.
After the Crimson Tide's victory on Thanksgiving Day, Dunbar head coach Jerron Joe congratulated his team on the win and told his players, "There's one more [game]."
"It's a good deal. Hopefully we represent the DCIAA well and come up victorious," said Joe.
For the players, like Dunbar's Lamel Matthews and Friendship's Derwin Gray, who used to play for the Crimson Tide, Saturday's game is about the competition and the experience of going to states.
"It's good to play until we get the real city champ," said Matthews.
"It's going to be a great game ... playing against people I've played against [and] grew up with," said Gray.
While Abdul-Rahim said he is happy his team has the opportunity to compete for the State Championship, he also says he doesn't want the focus of his program to shift away from college.
"Our kids are here to want to go to college first," said Abdul-Rahim. "Our real championship is February 6 this year, our Signing Day, and that's always going to be the case here."