DeMatha football to open season on national TV

DeMatha and its legion of fans have celebrated four consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference football championships. Photo courtesy of Chris McManes

BY CHRIS McMANES — Can’t make it to Las Vegas to see DeMatha open its football season? You can still enjoy the game on TV. ESPN will televise the game live.

The Stags will put their 17-game winning streak on the line with a game at Bishop Gorman High School. The Gaels dominate football in Nevada and are the three-time reigning USA Today Super 25 national champions. Gorman is riding a 54-game winning streak.

“You don’t win 54 straight games by chance,” DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks said. “They have a machine of a program. They’re well-coached, great football players. We definitely have our work cut out for us.”

The Friday, Aug. 25 contest will be one of seven over three days as part of the 2017 GEICO ESPN High School Football Kickoff. Game time  is 9 p.m. ET.

The Stags (12-0 in 2016) are coming off their fourth straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship and finished the season ranked No. 1 locally. USA Today slotted DeMatha fourth at season’s end, the highest final national ranking in school history.

With the graduation of three-year starter Beau English, one of Brooks’ biggest tasks will be to find a new starting quarterback. Senior Tyler Lenhart and junior Eric Najarian are the two leading candidates.

“They’ve both been working extremely hard,” Brooks said. “It’s not set in stone right now [who will start].”

Also missing from last year’s undefeated team are offensive tackle Marcus Minor and All-American defensive end Chase Young. Minor is up the road at Maryland. Young is at Ohio State.

Despite these losses, the Stags are expected to put another talented team on the field. College scholarship offers have already been pouring in for a host of players.

“We have some guys who are chomping at the bit to show what they can do,” Brooks said. “We have a good nucleus of guys who played significant downs for us last year. And we have some young talent coming up that are going to get a chance to show what they can do on national TV, to really start their careers here at DeMatha.”

Brooks and his staff will begin to develop a much clearer picture of the 2017 Stags once practice starts at Heurich Field on Aug. 1.

“I won’t know better until we actually get out there on the field,” Brooks said. “But I feel good about our chances.”

NFL veteran joins coaching staff 

DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks will welcome one of his former teammates to his staff. Josh Wilson returns to Hyattsville after playing nine years in the NFL.

Brooks said Wilson will bring a “fresh perspective” to the program.

“I think he’ll really be able to connect with the kids,” he said. “He’s walked these halls at DeMatha. So, guys on defense, guys in the secondary will really take heed to whatever input that he brings to the table. We’re excited to have him back.”

Wilson and Brooks last played together 16 years ago. Brooks graduated from DeMatha in 2002; Wilson a year later.

Wilson, 32, played for five NFL teams after graduating from Maryland. He was a second-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2007. From 2011-13, he started all 48 games at cornerback for the Washington Redskins.

Stags becoming Cadets

Three stars from DeMatha’s 2016 squad will be playing football for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Grant Donaldson, Victor Oluwatimi and Beau English are undergoing Basic Cadet Training right now.

The Falcons play at Navy on Oct. 7. The Stags host WCAC rival Gonzaga in Landover, Md., the night before.

New offensive leader

The Stags will have a new offensive coordinator this season. Fred Howze replaces Mark Goodson, who has decided to take a leave of absence. Howze has been with the program for four years, serving as a JV coordinator and varsity wide receivers coach.

Howze was Frostburg (Md.) State’s leading receiver as a senior in 2007.

Football Camp starts Monday

DeMatha coaches will be hosting football camp the week of July 17-21. Two age groups are offered: One for third through fifth graders and one for sixth through eighth graders. The cost is $200 per week when you pre-register.

The camp stresses proper football techniques and fundamentals. It will be held on campus at the Looney Convocation Center and at Hyattsville Middle School. For more information and to register, see http://www.demathafootball.org/Summer-Camp.html.

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