FORT WASHINGTON – It was a quiet morning at Tucker Road Athletic Complex. There was a group of men talking outside of the ice skating rink building, another taking shots in the basketball courts and a few people walking along the trail that zig-zags through the park.
But as you drive through the parking lot, walk past the ice rink on the right and baseball fields on the left, a different sight emerges. A football field appears with teenagers screaming and cheering on their teammates during a tire pull competition.
It is the beginning of another workout for National Christian Academy (NCA), one of the rising teams in the region.
The school, which is mostly known for being a basketball powerhouse, started a junior varsity football program in 2012 and then a varsity program a year later, going 8-1 in just its third year of existence.
Current Head Coach Andre Kates took over the program the following year, setting a new goal for the program.
Instead of playing mostly home school teams and small schools like they did in the past, Kates is building a program to challenge the top schools in the area. To do that, he created a program that not only wants its players to win at the highest level, but also to get a scholarship to play in college.
“I really could have 100 kids in this program if I wanted to,” Kates said. “But you need the right ones for what we’re trying to build.”
When Kates came to NCA three years ago, the team had just 18 players on the squad.
Now, it has almost that many players with Division I offers. It starts with the basics as the players take part in the Monster Maker gym strength and training program in Temple Hills, which helps them get bigger and stronger to compete at the next level, Kates said.
All the coaches on Kates staff also have experience playing football in college, which only adds to their credibility. According to senior offensive lineman Aaryn Parks, their coaching is what sets the Eagles apart from other schools in the region. They are not afraid to tell you when you mess up, which is exactly what some players need to get better.
That combination is starting to pay off for the Eagles.
Coming into this year, NCA’s defense looks bound to improve on the 15.8 points per game it allowed last season.
The group has many Division I prospects, including cornerback and Texas A&M University, commit Joshuah Moten (18 tackles, four interceptions, seven passes deflected) and safety and UMass commit Tristan Armstrong, who will lead the team from the secondary.
Upfront, junior Monkell Goodwine will surpass his performances from last season, where his 44 tackles and three sacks put him as the No. 7 defensive end in the class of 2021, according to the 247 Sports Composite.
Alongside him is Terion “Tank” Sugick, who, stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 265-pounds, is a stout and powerful defensive tackle that could give teams problems. Last season, he finished with 73 tackles and nine sacks.
Junior Jay Entzminger (57 tackles) and senior Jaden Farmer (54 tackles) are back at linebacker as well, giving the Eagles standout players at all three levels on defense.
On offense, Parks and Louisville commit Timothy Lawson are in charge of the offensive line, with Eugene Brown III adding some serious bulk, listed at 327 pounds. Senior quarterback Jalen Lea will be the team’s main playmaker on offense after throwing for 1,391 yards and 12 touchdowns while running for 190 and scoring two more last season.
“Our quarterback is a big-time leader,” Kates said of Lea.
The offense does not have as many players with college offers yet as their defensive counterparts, but they carry a lot of potential. The Eagles lost more than 70% of rushing offense after Jason Mackall and Jaylen Johnson graduated. To fill the void, senior Miles Miree (190 yards, three touchdowns) and Joseph Goins Jr (181 yards, one touchdown) are expected to fill that hole.
Miree is also a pass-catching option after finishing second on the team with 343 receiving yards in 2018, and Kates expects seniors Ric Alston (11 receptions, 197 yards, four touchdowns) and Devin Morrow to step up as well.
Schedule-wise, the Eagles have progressed to playing better teams, but need to continue building their name to play the top competition in the area. Because of that, NCA will play four of its 10 games against teams from outside the DMV, including national powers St. Thomas More from Connecticut and St. Edward’s from Ohio. NCA’s first game will be against Imani Christian on Sept. 6 in Pennsylvania.
Having success this year is just the next step for a program that has even bigger goals.
“When you say National Christian Academy, you don’t think of football, you think of basketball because of (Kevin Durant) and Michael Beasley,” Parks said. “I think that’s real motivation right there. Because once we step onto the field, they’re going to look at us like’ hey they’re not playing.’ We got something to prove.”