High School

St. John's, DeMatha face off Nov. 2 for Game of the Week

St. John's, DeMatha face off Nov. 2 for Game of the Week

The St. John’s Cadets have been on a roller coaster of a season, but with a victory Saturday over No. 2-ranked DeMatha, they will find themselves back at the top of the ride. 

The Cadets, who began their season ranked in the top five nationally, and number one in the region, set out to play what is unanimously considered the toughest schedule in the nation. Over a four-week stretch they played teams who were at the time ranked numbers 1, 3 and 5 in the country — taking grueling trips to New Jersey and Texas in the process.

Some questioned whether the Cadets schedule was overly ambitious and ultimately hurt the team in the process,

“We work hard year-round for these opportunities,” head coach Joe Casamento said, “ The goal of some teams is to play in one big game at the end of the year, our philosophy is we want for our student-athletes to be able to play in the ‘Super Bowl’ every week. I don’t want to play someone we know we’re going to beat. We’re teaching our student-athletes to have courage and to understand how to accept challenges in life."

Football, perhaps more than any other sport relies on momentum. Losing four in a row, no matter the strength of the competition can break a team’s confidence — such a losing streak has the ability to negatively affect a group's psyche, which can be difficult to rebound from. Casamento says this was never the case with the Cadets. “This team stayed positive. We don’t point any fingers. We stayed connected”.

St. John’s got back on track with a 45-7 win at Bishop McNamara setting up a WCAC showdown with Good Counsel. The Cadets came out on top in a back-and-forth dog fight. Second-team quarterback Wyatt Hagan connected with LSU commit Rakim Jarrett for a huge catch and run in the waning moments, which ultimately set up Antwain Littleton’s go-ahead touchdown plunge. 

The Cadets overcame multiple key injuries in the victory, including starting QB Sol-Jay Maiva. According to Casamento, it wasn’t that SJC defeated GC that impressed him, it was what they overcame to do so,

 “I told the guys after the game, this was a phenomenal win”, said Casamento, “I looked out on the field in the 4th quarter and saw guys who previously hadn’t played much making plays and keeping us in the game. I was proud of them because they fought hard throughout the game, they believed in each other and ultimately pulled it out”.

The long journey of a season has led St. John’s to a familiar place — a crucial WCAC clash with the DeMatha Stags.

For years DeMatha has been the class of the conference. The proverbial gold standard, the Stags have played in 20 of the last 22 WCAC title games and won five of the last seven championships. The 2019 unit is keeping up with tradition.

Winners of six of their last seven, DeMatha is arguably the most balanced team in the league. They boast a defense filled with future Division I student-athletes and playmakers at every level— it is easy to understand how at one point they shut out four consecutive opponents. 

On offense, the Stags trot out two equally effective quarterbacks. Senior Malakai Anthony excels in RPO opportunities. He is a consistent running threat. Freshmen Cameron Edge has rare arm talent and is earning rave reviews from teammates and competitors alike. 

The key to the DeMatha engine though is their rushing attack. The Stags have a stable of backs. Sieh Bangura and Kevin Winston Jr. are impressive. The electrifying Marshawn Lloyd is amongst the tops in the country. He is capable of changing the landscape of a game every time he touches the ball.

“We have to stop Marshawn,” said Casamento. “He’s a special running back. We can’t afford to let him get going if we desire to win”.

In 2019 SJC has embraced experiences few other high school programs ever will. At times they have soared to the highest of highs and in others they’ve been low. St. John’s 4-4 record adequately expresses the ups and downs of fielding a schedule few others would even consider. 

Was the task too daunting? The travel too vigorous and the competition too fierce? Or was it all designed to prepare the Cadets for this moment. 

On Saturday afternoon vs. DeMatha many of those questions will be answered.
 

DaLawn Parrish and Wise football reclaim Maryland state title

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Photo by Chad Ricardo

DaLawn Parrish and Wise football reclaim Maryland state title

It’s been 379 days since Wise lost to Quince Orchard in their 2018 state semifinal matchup. It’s been 9,096 hours since the Pumas' 48-game win streak was snapped and 545,760 minutes since the then-four-time champion became nothing more than a contender.

That time has passed. Wise is Wise, again.

The Pumas defeated Northwest 35-21 to reclaim the Maryland 4A state championship Friday night. The victory ended a nightmare for head coach DaLawn Parrish that he’d been living in for over a year. Asked how often he’d thought about getting back to this moment, he replied, “just about every day."

From 2015-17, the Pumas experienced so much success that at times Parrish felt his adversaries, as well as some of his supposed supporters, were anxiously waiting to witness Wise’s downfall.

“A lot of times we talk about ‘us against the world,'” Parrish said. “I think back to that QO game and I did feel like everybody wanted us to lose. Even though we had all these people behind us, I felt like half of them was cheering for QO—it was like we weren’t being supported. When I was coming up, everybody wanted to see a dynasty, now it feels like everybody wants to see the underdog win."

Parrish and the Pumas set out to use that loss as a teaching tool for the student athletes, both on and off the field.

“We used it as motivation. It drove me, it drove these young men, it drove my coaches.

"This is bigger than X’s and O’s, it’s about surrounding [these student athletes] with good people. We help them to understand what failure looks like, what it is to continue to try and we teach them that although somedays things don’t go their way, they have to keep pushing forward."

The life lesson was on full display in the state championship game. Friday night was a tale of two halves. During the first, the Jags looked like the better team at times. Northwest quarterback Jordan Morse connected with wide receiver Kaden Prather down the right sideline for a 79-yard score in the first quarter and Ryan Beach zig-zagged 69 yards on a screen pass to even the match seconds before intermission.

The vaunted Wise defense that had only allowed two opponents to score in double figures all season had given up two touchdowns in just two quarters. Asked if anything the Jags did in the first half surprised him and his staff, a jovial Parrish responded, “It surprised me that one of my people blew a coverage,” with a smile. “And I will be honest, [Beach] was quicker than I thought he was. The film doesn’t do him justice."

The Pumas' defense entered the third frame with a renewed energy. It stymied the Jags rushing attack and applied relentless pressure to Morse, registering six sacks on the night.

“I knew that if we got them in 10-personnel, they’d be in trouble because they haven’t seen speed like ours," Parrish said. "A lot of what they do is screens and short passes, so if we could get pressure [on their quarterback], I thought we could blow the game open sooner or later."

After yielding a long completion in the first quarter, Jalil Farooq proved to be a difference maker for Wise. He blanketed Prather in the second half, getting his hands on multiple passes. His third-quarter interception swung the momentum in the Puma’s favor.

“Jalil played a helluva game," teammate Dorian Strong said. “His endless pass break-ups and the pick was key for us."

Farooq would capitalize on his forced turnover moments later, when he ran a reverse in from eight yards out and gave Wise a 28-14 lead.

The Pumas' main source of consistency throughout the evening was sophomore quarterback Jayden Sauray. When the game was in the balance, Sauray delivered. He threw second-half touchdowns to Strong and Keith Boddie Jr. to match his two first-half touchdown runs. The young QB showed skill and leadership beyond his years.

“The way he played with poise was outstanding,” Parrish said. “He doesn’t get rattled much. To be a 15-year old young man and have that kind of poise and confidence is unheard of. To stay the course and remain steady the way he does, just shows who he is and what’s to come [from him] will be outstanding."

The title is the Puma’s fourth in five years and the program’s fifth this decade. However, there is little reason to expect Parrish to celebrate for too long; he’s already planning his next steps,

“We just won this championship and my mind is working on next year," Parrish said. "Who do we have to replace? Who’s coming up from junior varsity? I’m thinking about my seniors and trying to get them in college. My mind is looking outward and I haven’t had a chance to take this all in. It’s like it never stops."

Such is life when you’ve built a dynasty. Wise is Wise, again.

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Top 20 DMV boys basketball: PVI, DeMatha lead rankings

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Top 20 DMV boys basketball: PVI, DeMatha lead rankings

Week 2 began with a Virginia rivalry matchup between PVI and Bishop J. O'Connell. Behind Duke commit Jeremy Roach, PVI defeated O'Connell, in a sold-out playoff environment gym.

In other notable matchups, Good Counsel upsetting Gonzaga 59-56 - Bez Mbeng led Good Counsel with 14 points.  Antoine Jacks and Dylan Williamson both contributed 12 points. And Eleanor Roosevelt defeated South River 73-61, and in an out-of-county matchup. In an IAC vs MAC non-conference game between St. Andrews and Georgetown Prep, St. Andrew's took the 89-52 victory. Dylan Edwards led St. Andrews with 15 points. Here's this week's top 25:

1. PVI 

2. DeMatha 

3. Gonzaga 

4. Saint Stephen's Saint Agnes 

5. St. John's 

6. Rock Creek

7. Bullis  

8. Archbishop Carroll

9.  Coolidge

10. Good Counsel

11. Riverdale Baptist 

12.  Bishop McNamara 

13. Thurgood Marshall

14. St. Andrew’s

15. Bishop O’Connell 

16. Georgetown Prep

17. St. Mary's Ryken

18. Wise

19. Wilson 

20. Eleanor Roosevelt 

 

Click here for the Top 20 girls' rankings.