DeMatha football loses season opener to national power, 35-23

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Nick Cross (20) and Melteon Davis (57) prepare for DeMatha's game against Bishop Gorman. The sixth-ranked Stags fell to the No. 4 Gaels, 35-23. Photo courtesy of Chris McManes

BY CHRIS McMANES

LAS VEGAS — DeMatha did a lot of good things in its season opener Friday night. Just not enough to win.

Playing on national TV, the Stags allowed 22 consecutive points in a 35-23 loss at Bishop Gorman. After falling behind, 10-0, the Gaels showed why they have won 55 in a row.

“We saw tonight why they haven’t lost in four years,” DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks said. “You can’t make the mistakes we made tonight and expect to win. They’re going to capitalize on it every time.

“We’ll get better from it. We showed a lot of good things. At times, we felt like we let them off the hook. But as a program, we’re close. We’re just not there yet.”

Gorman entered the game at Fertitta Field ranked fourth in the nation by USA Today. The Stags, who had their 17-game winning streak halted, were ranked sixth.

Senior Tyler Lenhart played well as DeMatha’s new quarterback. He completed 12 of 26 passes for 248 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns. He had a few passes dropped and missed some open receivers.

“I thought he did well,” Brooks said. “At times, we dropped passes that we probably should have caught. For his opener, I thought he played as well as you can ask. I was happy with Ty’s performance.”

Gaels senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson was even better in the first start at quarterback. Operating out of Gorman’s spread offense, the UCLA recruit finished 19 of 23 for 288 yards and accounted for five touchdowns (three passing, two running).

“He’s as good as advertised,” Brooks said. “He made the throws that he needed to make. He made plays with his feet. The guy’s a really good player.”

The Stags stopped the Gaels’ opening possession on fourth-and-one and took over on Gorman’s 46-yard line. On the ensuing play, Lenhart completed a 43-yard pass to junior Jermaine Johnson to bring the ball to the Gaels’ 3. DeMatha got to the 2 before losing five yards on a run and 13 on a sack. The team had to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Joseph Hood.

On their next possession, Marshawn Lloyd ran up the middle untouched for a 30-yard TD to give the Stags a 10-0 lead. Thompson-Robinson answered by scoring on a 2-yard run to cap a 55-yard drive. Dominic Logan-Nealy blocked the extra point.

Thompson-Robinson scored from a yard out, and Gorman went ahead, 13-10, with 9:48 to go before halftime. Neither team scored before the break. Lloyd left the game midway through the second quarter with his left arm in a sling and did not return.

DeMatha went 83 yards on six plays to take its final lead, 17-13, with 8:58 left in the third period. Lenhart completed all three of his passes on the drive to DeMarcco Hellams. The big one was a 60-yarder over the middle. The TD came on a 12-yard strike in the front right corner of the end zone.

Lenhart was generally pleased with his performance. He said he plans to study film and work hard next week in practice to correct his mistakes.

“I thought I did all right,” he said. “I came out pretty strong, got some good completions, got some good drives in. I’ve got to stay strong throughout the game and make my reads. I can’t panic.”

The Gaels didn’t score on their next drive but started picking up yards in huge chunks. They had three 11-yard gains and two 16-yarders before the Stags stopped them on the DeMatha 6. After a three-and-out, Gorman went 30 yards in three plays to lead 20-17.

Thompson-Robinson then hooked up with Arizona State recruit Jalen Nailor for a 68-yard TD on third down. Later, on third-and-13, he found Jimmy Telles for a 22-yard score to conclude a run of 22 straight points.

“We did really well on first and second down,” Stags linebacker/tight end Anthony Toro said. “On third down, we really have to execute better. We gave up a lot of single plays that really hurt us.”

The vaunted DeMatha running game was largely kept in check. The Stags were held to 69 yards on 27 carries.

“I know our guys can play better,” Brooks said. “Misalignments or blown coverages or missed blocks, those are all things that are correctable.”

DeMatha’s last TD came on a 9-yard pass from Lenhart to Dominic Lyles, and Rodney Patterson, Jr. recovered the onside kick. Lenhart’s final pass went through Lyles’ hands and was intercepted.

“They had a great defense. They brought a lot of pressure,” Lenhart said. “I can’t fold under that pressure when those guys are coming.”

The Stags return home to face Avalon at Wilson Stadium in Landover on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of and how we’re going to respond,” Brooks said. “If I know these guys, they’ll respond the right way.”

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