Oscar Uduma figured it would be fun to play football again.
He wasn’t planning on becoming one of the best players in the Catholic League’s Blue Division. He wasn’t aiming to lead Bonner-Prendergast to a berth in the Class 4A city title game.
"I just wanted to play again,” Uduma said after making a major impact on both sides of the football in Bonner-Prendergast’s 35-20 victory over Archbishop Carroll in the Catholic League’s 4A championship game Saturday at Cardinal O’Hara.
But a couple of funny things happened when Uduma decided to reunite with football after spending his freshman and sophomore years fully focused on basketball.
One, he developed into a dominant player with a knack for finding the end zone on offense and stirring up all kinds of trouble on defense.
Two, the Friars went from 3-8 in his junior year to 9-1 this season, including a seven-game winning streak heading into Friday night’s clash with Public League champion Imhotep Charter.
"Oscar is one of the top three players in the league,” Bonner-Prendergast coach Jack Muldoon said. “That’s how well he’s played on offense and defense.”
Muldoon attributes Bonner-Prendergast’s remarkable reversal to improved play along both lines, the emergence of young stars such as sophomore Mason Peterson and the continued development of junior quarterback Kyle Lazer.
After a pause, the coach said one other thing has transformed the Friars.
“We didn’t have Oscar playing like this,” Muldoon said of the team’s struggles in 2018.
Uduma played youth football for the Folcroft Falcons. He liked the sport. He was good at it. But basketball was his game.
“I had hoop dreams,” Uduma said.
As a freshman and sophomore, Uduma never watched any Bonner-Prendergast football games.
“I was always in a gym,” Uduma said.
He decided to come out for football as a junior.
“Some of the old dudes I used to play with were telling me to come out,” Uduma said. "I said, ‘I only have two years left of high school. I might as well enjoy it.’”
Even though he didn’t see the field regularly until later in the season, and even though the Friars were losing games, Uduma knew he made the right decision.
“It wasn’t about the record,” Uduma said. “The enjoyment came back, the excitement. It all came back."
Uduma still plays basketball. He likely will play again for the Friars as a senior.
But after his junior football season, he began to dedicate himself to his new favorite sport.
"He’s crazy in the weight room,” Muldoon said. "He’s a freak athlete. He’s a good basketball player. But he’s a great football player.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Uduma’s greatest asset might be his versatility. He’s a productive runner and receiver, plus a top tackler and pass rusher. He leads the team in rushing touchdowns with seven while generating 10 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, with four forced fumbles and three recoveries.
In Saturday’s victory that secured the Friars’ first league championship since 1994, Uduma was a disruptive force on defense. He registered a sack, knocked down a pass and sniffed out a screen and snared an interception.
But his biggest play came on offense. With the score tied, 20-20, and Bonner-Prendergast facing a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Uduma caught a slant pass from Lazer for the go-ahead score with 3 minutes, 40 seconds to play.
"That wasn’t the initial call but I said to the coach, ‘We’ve got one of our best players one-on-one with a corner, we’ve got to trust him,’” Lazer said.
Uduma was all basketball as a freshman and sophomore. He returned to football because he thought it might be fun.
Now, the sport looks like his future.