High School

High School Game Of The Week for Oct. 19: DeMatha vs. Gonzaga

High School Game Of The Week for Oct. 19: DeMatha vs. Gonzaga

In the 2018 WCAC championship game, Gonzaga defeated DeMatha 46-43, in thrilling fashion. A touchdown pass with four seconds remaining not only secured the title for the Eagles, their first since 2002, but it also broke the Stags’ heart in the process. 

On Saturday, DeMatha sets out for revenge. 

The championship game played out like a Hollywood movie script. Trailing 20-0 early in the first half, the underdog Eagles mounted a feverish comeback, taking the lead for the first time with 29 seconds remaining in the game. DeMatha returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to put the Stags up 43-40 with 15 seconds left. That set up a Caleb Williams-to-John Marshall, 53-yard Hail Mary as time expired — a moment that will be passed down in Gonzaga football lore.

To the Zaga faithful, the fairytale ending was a dream. For DeMatha, it was a nightmare.

“I still think about it all the time,” said DeMatha running back, Marshawn Lloyd. “ I can’t put into words what I felt that night; everything seemed like a blur. All I could do was think about what I could have done to change the situation”.

DeMatha is a dominant program. They’ve appeared in 20 of the last 22 WCAC championship games and last season, were attempting to win their fifth title in six years. They carried the anguish of that loss with them into the off season, determined to use it as motivation. “It fuels us every day,” said Lloyd. “ The shirts we work out in say, ‘4 seconds’ on the front and ‘Finish’ on the back. Our coaches don’t want us to forget”.

And it’s with that energy that the Stags have attacked the out of conference portion of their schedule. Riding a potent rushing attack and dominating defense, DeMatha (5-1) has won five consecutive games, 4 of which by shutout — outscoring their opponents 162-6 over that stretch.

“We know what we're capable of. We’ve been giving our all every play— not giving teams time to breathe," said Lloyd.

Saturday, the Stags will face a Gonzaga (6-1) team searching for their own piece of redemption. After steam-rolling their first six opponents, last week the Eagles fell 42-35 to WCAC foe Good Counsel (6-1), in a 5 overtime thriller. 

The 42 points allowed by Gonzaga is a bit misleading as all but 7 were given up in overtime, while playing on a shortened field. The Eagles defense is disciplined and stout. Led by interior anchor, Josh Williams and play-making safety, Kye Holmes, the Zaga defense is poised to pose quite a challenge for Lloyd and the Stags. 

The Eagles offense is led by 5-star quarterback Caleb Williams. A young man capable of generating offense in a multitude of ways. Last week he accounted for all 5 Eagles scores; 1 by air and 4 on the ground. Undoubtedly, DeMatha will need to devote additional resources in attempts to keep Williams at bay.

Saturday at 2p, no. 3 Gonzaga will play host to no. 1 DeMatha. It’s a big game for both teams. The Eagles look to prove that last season's storybook ending was not a fluke and that they are deserving of the title, “defending WCAC champs”. 

DeMatha, on the other hand, looks to write a new chapter in this storied rivalry, or at least re-write the previous.

See the top 25 here.

WCAC Football Semifinal: St. John's beats DeMatha

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Chad Ricardo

WCAC Football Semifinal: St. John's beats DeMatha

Four consecutive losses have a way of wearing on the psyche of a team. In those moments, character is defined and leadership is needed to right the ship. St. John’s is using the adversity it faced earlier in the season to get better, and their growth was on full display during their 34-20 semifinal victory on Saturday over the Stags.

“The journey is so much more important than arriving at the summit,” said coach Joe Casamento. “Everything we’ve been through has made us tougher. It’s made us tighter [as a team]”.

The Cadets defense stuffed the run and suffocated DeMatha receivers.

Their offense controlled the time of possession and moved the ball at will. St. John’s appeared determined to take advantage of opportunities in the passing game, getting the ball to Rakim Jarrett early and often and when senior quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava dropped a 26-yard dime into the hands of a diving Caleb Coombs, it gave the Cadets a 10-0 lead in the first. 

“We knew they played man coverage with one-high safety so we just tried to take advantage of their defense,” said Rakim Jarrett. “Caleb made a great catch and Sol-Jay placed the ball where it needed to be”.

St. John’s continued its dominance to start the second. Maiava spread the ball around to multiple receivers, marching the cadets down the field. Antwain “Baby Bus” Littleton’s 6-yard touchdown run pushed the Cadets lead to 17-0.

Late in the second, DeMatha’s freshman quarterback Cameron Edge ignited the Stags comeback. A pass interference call against the Cadets extended DeMathas drive and with seconds remaining in the half, the Stags went play-action and Edge found Sieh Bangura for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 17-7.

The Stags drew closer in the third, following a goal-line stand, Marshawn Lloyd ran off-tackle 82 yards for a score, trimming the Cadets lead to 17-14. After Littleton and Lloyd exchanged touchdown runs, the Cadets once comfortable lead was cut to 24-20 early in the fourth.

St. John’s did not panic. The Cadets did not flinch. Their seniors have been through the fire this season, and they were determined to see the Cadets through. 

“The more you get tested, the more you have to deal with losses, the more important your time together becomes,” said coach Casamento. “ I have so much respect for our seniors. I appreciate how much they’ve grown”.

Each time the Stags fought back into contention, St. John’s answered. When their backs were against the wall, their upperclassman made plays.

Led by Maiava, St.John’s methodically moved the ball down the field. Sol-Jay found Littleton out of the backfield for a key first down and capped the drive with a 12-yard keeper, beating Cozziah Izzard to the edge and finding the end zone for a 31-20 lead.

Trailing by two scores and the clock winding down, DeMatha faced a 4th and 20, Cameron Edge was immediately pressured and sacked by senior captains Mekhail Sherman and Taizse Johnson. The two embraced and jogged to the sideline in unison.

With the victory, the Cadets advance to the WCAC championship game vs. Good Counsel. It will be the third title game their senior class will have participated in and they will have a chance to win their second title.

Good Counsel beats Gonzaga to secure spot in WCAC championship

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Chad Ricardo

Good Counsel beats Gonzaga to secure spot in WCAC championship

The Good Counsel Falcons flew past the Eagles on Friday night en route to a 44-14 victory, making them the first to secure their seat in the WCAC championship game.

The Falcons set the tone early. Their defense forced a Zaga 3-and-out on the Eagles first possession and Good Counsel followed it up with a Sy’veon Wilkerson touchdown run. That sequence of events would be foreshadowing for what was to occur throughout the night. 

Early in the second quarter, Caleb Williams drove the Eagles down the field, capping off the drive with a spectacular 16-yard scamper. The touchdown gave Gonzaga a 7-6 lead, one that would be short-lived and the only lead they’d have all night.

Wilkerson scored again on the Falcons next possession and quarterback Chase Williams connected with Sean Aaron in the corner of the end zone just before the half, extending Good Counsel’s lead to 20-7 at the break. The Falcons offense, which has struggled at times this season, had found its’ wings.

“The defense and special teams carried us early in the year,” said coach Andy Stefanelli. “We were seeing improvement— it just wasn’t showing up on the scoreboard all the time. Tonight, the offense played great. It all finally came together."

Gonzaga looked to flurry to start the third. They recovered an on-side kick and drove the ball into scoring position. When the Good Counsel defense tightened, the drive stalled ending in a Mitchell Melton sack of Caleb Williams, which forced a turnover on downs.

The Falcons flustered the 5-star quarterback all night. They pressured him relentlessly, blanketed his receivers, which led to coverage sacks and limited the lanes by which he could run.

“Caleb is a great player,” said Stefanelli. “The plan was to try and contain him. We didn’t rush him every time— we sent some blitzes, but because he’s just as dangerous running as he is passing the ball, so we were just focused on containing him."

After a field goal increased the GC lead to 23-7, Mitchell Melton made another big play, this time deflecting a Williams screen pass, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Ronnell McCorn.

With the physicality of the Falcons offensive line beginning to wear down the Eagles, Wilkerson ran off-tackle, untouched 25 yards for his 3rd of 4 touchdowns on the night. He attributed his success to the blocking of his line and receivers.

“We played a complete game on offense and I feel good about that,” said Wilkerson.

Good Counsel outscored Gonzaga 24-0 in the decisive third quarter, turning what began as a hard-fought battle into a blow out victory. Few picked the Falcons to win, nonetheless to do so in such a convincing manner. Despite entering the contest with Gonzaga as the higher seed, many pundits predicted the Eagles would fly to the championship game. Few outside of the GC locker room thought they’d advance—a thought that wasn’t overlooked by the Falcons.

“We talked about it all week. We knew nobody believed in us,” said Wilkerson, “nobody has believed in us all year, so we came out to prove everybody wrong again."

Good Counsel will have one more opportunity to silence their doubters; next week in the WCAC championship game.