BY CHRIS MCMANES — When you prepare well during practice and execute well on game day, the fruits of your labor are usually sweet.
DeMatha Catholic High School turned a solid week of preparation into a dominating performance to win its third straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference football championship, 48-17 over Good Counsel at Maryland’s Byrd Stadium on Sunday.
DeMatha’s fifth-year Coach Elijah Brooks was pleased his team lived up to the enormous expectations that accompanied the 2015 campaign.
“For our boys to be challenged the way they were – high pressure, high stakes – and for them to deliver, man [it’s a] phenomenal team that goes in the record books as one of the best,” Brooks said.
The Stags (11-1) bolted to a 21-0 lead and outclassed the Falcons on offense and defense. Running back Lorenzo Harrison capped his career by rushing for 243 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior cornerback Robbie Robinson, who just came to DeMatha this year from Hampton, Va., said the team’s preparation was the key.
“We didn’t win the game today,” Robinson said. “We won the game watching film and practicing, putting in the reps. The coaches really put us in good situations to come out with the win.”
Good Counsel, which beat the Stags for three of their four-straight WCAC championships (2009-12), did little to slow down the DeMatha juggernaut Sunday. The Stags went 94 yards on their opening drive and scored when quarterback Beau English found Anthony McFarland for a 30-yard touchdown.
The Falcons (7-5) best chance to make it a game evaporated in three consecutive plays to start the second quarter. From the DeMatha 19-yard line, Robinson scooped up a fumble and went 81 yards to the end zone.
“I saw the ball comes out of his hands on the handoff,” Robinson said. “The ball was rolling between a lot of guys’ legs, and I just kind picked it up and ran with it.”
After the kickoff, Brenton Nelson intercepted Good Counsel’s Travis Nannen and brought it back to the Falcons’ 19. Harrison scored on the next play to make it 21-0 with 10:51 to go before halftime. The Stags forced four turnovers and committed only one.
Good Counsel responded with an 81-yard drive and scored when Nannen hooked up with Owen Peters from 9 yards. The extra point was blocked. Peters finished with nine receptions for 93 yards.
Following a DeMatha punt, the Falcons moved into position for a 29-yard field goal by Sam Kwon with 2 seconds left in the first half.
Brooks knew a 21-9 halftime lead was not safe against the club the Stags were meeting in the WCAC title game for the 10th time in the past 12 seasons.
“You can never count out a Good Counsel team,” Brooks said. “They’re a phenomenal program and we’ve been battling for years. I’m happy the way our boys put them away, but a credit to Good Counsel – another fantastic year.”
Harrison scored on the second play from scrimmage after halftime by motoring untouched around the right side for a 72-yard TD. Luca Fazio’s extra point made it 28-9 just 49 seconds into the third quarter.
After an exchange of punts, the Falcons put together their best drive of the night by chewing up 84 yards on 18 plays. Mohammed Ibrahim scored on a 1-yard run, and the subsequent two-point conversion by Devin Judd brought Good Counsel to within 11 points. The only negative for the Falcons was that they used up almost the entire third quarter.
DeMatha’s Grant Donaldson got a nice roll on a 46-yard punt to push Good Counsel back to its 21-yard line. On second-and-8, Nannen (19 of 32, 200 yards) made another crucial mistake. With defensive end Chase Young applying heavy pressure, he threw the ball directly to Stags defensive tackle Austin Fontaine at the 12.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound sophomore scored easily to put DeMatha in command, 35-17, with 10:50 to go. The Stags intercepted Nannen again at their 1 before Harrison put the punctuation mark on his brilliant career.
Facing a second-and-13 from his own 32, Harrison swept left and cut back across the middle before racing down the right sideline. Not thinking anyone was going to catch him, he slowed down a little inside the 5 and was tackled in the end zone by Under Armour All-American and future Terrapin teammate Keandre Jones.
It was the last time the elusive Harrison would touch the ball in a DeMatha uniform. In the Stags’ two playoff victories this year, he rushed for 365 yards and five TDs.
“Lorenzo’s a heck of a player,” Brooks said, “and for him to finish out his senior campaign the way he did – the University of Maryland’s getting a fantastic player, and I’m sad to see him go.”
Harrison was asked what the key was to his success Sunday. “Besides the offensive line, just seeing the whole field and using my vision to see where to run to,” he said.
Senior Kobe Boyd closed the scoring on a 44-yard TD run with 40 seconds remaining.
Ibrahim, who rushed for 202 yards against DeMatha in the Falcons’ 28-23 loss to the Stags on Nov. 6, was held to 74 yards Sunday. DeMatha, during its week of practice, had placed a premium on stopping the Falcon running game.
“We didn’t want to allow the big plays,” Brooks said. “We went back and watched film and saw where our mistakes were, and our kids understood what our goals were in order to win the game: Don’t allow big plays, stop the run and don’t turn the ball over.
“So I felt like we did a pretty good job executing the game plan.”
Brooks said this championship was as “sweet” as the other two: “They all satisfy different emotions, but at the end it’s all the same. It feels great.”