BY CHRIS MCMANES — Rallying to win a close game or making a big defensive stand to preserve victory is exciting for players, coaches and fans. Leaving no doubt who was the better team from start to finish is also gratifying.
The DeMatha Catholic High School football team controlled both lines of scrimmage and thoroughly dominated St. Mary’s Ryken 49-0 Friday night. The Stags rolled up 363 total yards while holding the Knights to 48.
DeMatha (4-0), ranked first in the Washington area and 8th nationally by USA Today, looked sharp offensively, defensively and on special teams.
“We’ve been waiting for a game like this,” Stags Coach Elijah Brooks said. “We came out [and] executed all three phases of the game. I’m really proud of the way our guys played.”
DeMatha, fresh off three non-conference victories to open the season, was playing its Washington Catholic Athletic Conference opener at Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex in Landover. St. Mary’s (2-2) coached by former Stags Coach Jerry Franks, was making its WCAC debut.
It did not go well.
DeMatha scored its first three touchdowns on the ground: Beau English on a quarterback sneak, followed by Khory Spruill (37 yards) and Anthony McFarland (56).
“It all starts with the guys up front,” Brooks said. “Our offensive line did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage, and our running backs did a great job fighting for extra effort and making big plays.”
The Stags increased the lead to 28-0 when Delante Hellams made a diving 28-yard reception in the end zone against tight coverage with 4:14 to play before halftime.
Just before the end of the half, the Knights attempted to punt from their own 24, but Lorenzo Harrison broke through and blocked the kick. Fellow Maryland recruit Tino Ellis scooped it up and scored to give DeMatha a 35-0 halftime lead.
Harrison, who added a 1-yard TD run, finished with 123 yards rushing. The 5-foot-8, 187-pound senior also plays defensive back. In the Stags’ 23-22 victory over American Heritage in Plantation, Fla., he recovered an onside kick to keep the reigning Florida 5A champion from having a final chance to win.
“He’s been playing well offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Brooks said.
Because of the 35-point differential, a running clock was employed in the second half. The only time it stopped was for timeouts and quarter change.
DeMatha’s defense was so dominant that it held St. Mary’s to just four first downs and 20 yards rushing on 25 attempts. It did not allow the Knights to cross midfield. The Stags recorded back-to-back sacks in the first half with Marquis Brown and Myles Olufemi combining on the first one, and Greg Rose recording the second.
“Our defense has done a great job all year,” Brooks said. “For them to come out and have that performance is a testament to the defensive [coaching] staff and defensive players.”
English attempted just 10 passes, completing five for 44 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted twice in the first half by senior Brian Towers.
On the second one, Towers took the ball from his own 8 before being leveled at the 20. The game was delayed about 25 minutes while Towers was tended to and eventually taken away by ambulance. He was reported to be in good condition.
Brooks does not like to see anyone get injured.
“No matter who we compete against, we never want to see a kid get hurt,” he said. “We’re all praying for him. I don’t know how serious his injury was, but we’re praying for a speedy recovery.”
DeMatha plays at WCAC rival St. John’s on Saturday Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. The Cadets (3-1) are coming off a 29-23 triple overtime win at league power Good Counsel.
“It’s going to be tough,” Brooks said, “so we’ve got to get back to work and be ready to go.”