Amara Yobouet loves to wrestle.
But he was in no hurry to get to practice.
Yobouet is a junior heavyweight wrestler on the Northeast High School wrestling team. And he is looking forward to getting an opportunity to get on the mat to help his team defend the Public League wrestling championship. But his favorite sport is during the fall, and just like last year, he’s experienced a great football season.
“Wrestling practice has started, but I’m not there yet,” said Yobouet, who starts at defensive tackle for the Vikings. “The other guys are there, and I’ll get there. But first I have to do this. Football is my main sport.”
Northeast won the Public League 6A championship for the fourth year in a row, and on Saturday night, the Vikings suffered their fourth straight setback to St. Joe’s Prep in the 6A District 12 championship game but this year couldn’t have been more different than the other years.
Every other year, the end of the game was played with a running clock, but this year Prep escaped with a 43-26 win to advance to the state playoffs.
Northeast jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Hawks, who were playing without their Ohio State-bound quarterback Kyle McCord, but did have their dynamic defense that includes seven All-Catholic selections.
Prep came into the game with two losses, both to nationally ranked squads, and up until Saturday had mercy ruled every team it played.
In the last three city championship games, Prep outscored Northeast by 104 points.
Leading the Vikings was quarterback Charles Britt, who threw for 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Jon-Luke Peaker, who rushed for 125 yards and a score. Tyreek Chappell scored on an 80-yard catch.
Northeast’s defense hung tough for most of the game, too. One of Prep’s touchdowns was a kickoff return, another one was scored on a short field after a blocked punt.
“I’m really proud of the way we played against Prep and all season,” said Yobouet, who notched six tackles on the night. “They’re the best team in the state. Everyone said they’re the best and they’re good, but I really think we could have beat them.
“We (approached it) like they are just another team. A good team. A really good team. But we weren’t afraid of them and we think we could beat them. They’re the best, but I think we could be the best team in the state. We really wanted to go to states and show everyone that we could do that.”
Yobouet and his defensive teammates have been making teams believers all year.
The Vikings limited Imhotep Charter to six points and held seven others scoreless. Despite giving up 43 points on Saturday, they’re still outscoring opponents 443-100. And they still have another game left on Thanksgiving, when they square off with Central in the nation’s oldest Thanksgiving Day rivalry.
And the biggest thing to come out of this season is that the players now know they are getting closer to knocking off Prep and if they continue to work, they’ll get even closer.
“We started working last year for them, not this year,” Yobouet said. “I worked really hard in the weight room and so did everyone else. We tried to be more disciplined and we tried to do everything we can to play with them.
“I had fun playing against them. They’re really good. They have a great offensive line. We just went out and gave it everything we had. But I do think we can beat them. We’re gonna beat them next year.”
Before Yobouet and company have another chance at Prep, he’ll have another wrestling season. Last year, Yobouet finished second in the All-Public tournament at 220 pounds, and he improved every day because he would practice against Jameel Coles, who was one of the top 195-pounders in the state. Coles, who graduated last June, took fifth in the state and taught Yobouet a lot while they were drilling.
“He was so good, he really helped me,” Yobouet said. “I had to get better wrestling him. He’s really good.
“I like wrestling. Winning the championship in wrestling was great. I’m more of a football player, that’s my favorite sport, but I want to win in wrestling, too. Wrestling has helped me a lot in football with quickness and conditioning. Jameel was in great shape because of wrestling so it will help me in football, too.”
Coles proved to be one of the best in the state last year. That’s what Yobouet is hoping to do in football next year.
“I think we’re going to be really good next year,” said Yobouet, who is receiving a lot of college interest and has an offer Morgan State. “I think we could be the best next year. We want to play them again. I think we can beat them next year. And we’re going to start working for that now.”