BY CHRIS McMANES — The DeMatha offense has played well the past two weeks. The defense has been spectacular.
The Stags recorded their second consecutive shutout Friday night at Wilson Stadium in Landover with a 36-0 victory over Franklin High.
The performance took pressure off DeMatha quarterback Tyler Lenhart, who returned to action after sitting out the previous week. He appreciates the intensity his teammates have brought on the defensive side of the ball.
“Our motto here at DeMatha is ‘defense wins championships,’ and that’s the truth,” Lenhart said. “We wouldn’t be anything without our defense. They’re carrying this team. I mean, two shutouts in a row. Like [Stags] coach [Elijah Brooks] said, you don’t get that very often.”
Lenhart, who missed DeMatha’s 28-0 win over Avalon on Sept. 1, looked sharp and confident Friday. The senior from Gambrills, Md., was 7 of 12 for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He sandwiched scoring passes of 25 and 35 yards around a rushing TD by freshman Sieh Bangura as DeMatha took a 22-0 lead into halftime.
“[Tyler] threw the ball well. I was pleased with his performance,” Brooks said. “If everybody continues to improve each week, I think this team will be OK.”
Myles Miree paced the Stags’ running game with 11 carries for 60 yards. Bangura only gained 16 yards but scored twice. DeMatha forced the Indians (1-1) to punt five of the six times they had the ball in the first half.
The Stags (2-1) pressured Franklin quarterbacks Larry Smith and Emmett Avery all evening and finished with five sacks. Anthony Toro and Mekai Davis had solo sacks. Anthony Hill combined on sacks with John Morgan and Cameron Bailey. Ian Frobie and Detrick Washington shared the final one for DeMatha.
“The defense has been playing lights-out [in] back to back weeks, not allowing anything over the top,” Brooks said. “We have to tackle better, but overall I was happy.”
The Stags scored on their first possession when Lenhart completed a 25-yard pass to Morgan. DeMarcco Hellams helped get Morgan into the end zone with a nice downfield block. Lenhart followed Bangura’s 9-yard rushing TD with a two-point conversion pass to Toro.
The Stags needed just three plays to score again. Lenhart started the drive with a 14-yard scramble. He finished it by finding Dominic Lyles at the Franklin 20. The senior wideout took it the remaining 15 yards to pay dirt.
Bangura’s second tally, from a yard out, made it 29-0 with 5:30 left in the third quarter. Lenhart hooked up with Lyles for 14 yards on the drive and hit Jermaine Johnson for 57 yards to the Indians’ 1. Lyles finished with three receptions for 57 yards. Johnson had three for 59.
Lenhart left the game with 1:01 to play in the third quarter with a sprained left knee. Hit just after he released the ball, he walked off under his own power. Eric Najarian replaced him and promptly completed a 43-yard strike to Toro. Najarian punctuated the scoring with a one-yard run.
Lenhart, who also had the wind knocked out of him when he injured his knee, is confident he will play in DeMatha’s game Sept. 15.
“I couldn’t breathe when I got up, and then my leg started hurting,” he said. “I was like, ‘oh, I didn’t even know my leg got hurt.’ But I’m all right. I just have to put a brace on it, and I’ll be fine for next week.”
Led by senior linemen and Maryland recruits Austin Fontaine and Evan Gregory, the Stags dominated both lines of scrimmage. DeMatha’s biggest negatives were two lost fumbles and a slew of penalties.
“Our guys did a great job up front on both sides of the ball,” Brooks said. “But everywhere, I think we just played better today [than the previous week]. I think we executed better. Still, the same mistakes: penalties and turnovers. But overall, I thought our execution everywhere was better.”
The Stags entered the game ranked No. 1 locally (The Washington Post) and No. 9 nationally (USA Today).
DeMatha hosts McDonogh School (Owings Mills, Md.) on Friday Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. The Stags defeated the Eagles last year, 49-28. McDonogh improved to 2-0 with a 42-7 victory at Bishop McNamara.
“They’re going to come in and be ready to go,” DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks said. “They’re much-improved. They’re bringing back almost 20 starters. It’s going to be a battle next week.”
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times.