DeMatha football in Las Vegas to face three-time reigning national champion Friday; Game on ESPN

DeMatha football players prepare in Las Vegas for their season-opening football game Friday at Bishop Gorman. Both teams are nationally ranked. Photo courtesy of Chris McManes.

BY CHRIS MCMANES

LAS VEGAS — Following the DeMatha football team’s practice Wednesday night, Coach Elijah Brooks was asked what most concerns him about the Stags season-opening opponent Friday night, Bishop Gorman High School.

His initial, one-word response said it all: “Everything.”

Brooks has good reason to be concerned about the Gaels. They have won 54 games in a row and are the three-time reigning USA Today Super 25 national champion.

“They have very few weaknesses,” Brooks said. “They have a great offensive line, great defensive linemen. They haven’t won 54 games by chance. They’re coached well.

“Without a doubt, this will arguably be our toughest task in recent memory.”

ESPN is televising the game live. It starts at 6 p.m. local time, 9 p.m. ET.

DeMatha enters on a 17-game winning streak and has won four-straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships. The Stags concluded last season ranked a program-record fourth in the nation.

USA Today has the Gaels No. 4 in the preseason; DeMatha is sixth.

The Stags flew into Las Vegas on Wednesday morning, ate lunch, had a short tour of the Strip and checked into their hotel. They practiced at nearby Faith Lutheran High School from 5:30 to 8 p.m. before having dinner at Southern High Golf Club.

The team’s 27-hour day was a small price to pay to play on national TV against one of the nation’s top teams.

“To play on this stage and give these boys the opportunity to travel across the country and see different things, it’s why you come to DeMatha,” Brooks said. “We’re excited about the opportunity.”

Gorman, the only Catholic high school in Southern Nevada, dominates football in the Silver State. It has won eight consecutive state championships. The Gaels haven’t lost since a 28-12 setback against Booker T. Washington of Miami on Oct. 4, 2013.

Gorman thrashed Liberty High in last year’s 4A state title game, 84-8. It was 35-0 with 2:02 to go in the first quarter.

The Stags, who began practice Aug. 1, will hold their final preseason practice tonight. They have played two scrimmage games and are eager to see how they match up against a top-tier national opponent.

“We’re talented enough to come in and do some good things. That’s not what we’re concerned about,” Brooks said. “It’s if we’re disciplined enough to execute because that makes a difference when you play a good team like Gorman that’s used to winning.

“Can you execute because you’re focused on the details? That’s what this team has to show.”

The Gaels have won 87 in a row against Nevada schools. Brooks said his Hyattsville, Md., club is carrying the banner for a lot of teams.

“This whole trip is top-notch,” he said. “I know my boys are excited. It’s a great platform for the program. We feel a great sense of pride that we’re representing not only DeMatha and Maryland, but arguably the whole East Coast.

“We’re representing something bigger than just us right now.”

Stags take flight

If you think this is the furthest a Stags football team has traveled to play a game, you would be wrong. In 1976, DeMatha played in Woodland, Calif. Still, a 2,100-mile flight from BWI Marshall to McCarran International is a long jaunt. The Stags have an 8:05 a.m. return flight Saturday morning. The wake-up call is 4:30 a.m. Yikes!

National games

In 2015, DeMatha opened the season with a pair of victories against reigning Florida state champions. The Stags defeated then-No. 2 Miami Central, 38-14, on ESPN. They followed it up the next week with a 23-22 win at American Heritage in Plantation, Fla.

Checking in at No. 1

DeMatha is ranked No. 1 in The Washington Post’s preseason Top 20 poll. Stags opponents also recognized include St. John’s (No. 3), Gonzaga (5) and Friendship Collegiate (6).

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha sports for the Hyattsville Life & Times.