DeMatha rallies on Veterans Day, advances to WCAC football championship game

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

No. 1 DeMatha will be seeking its fourth straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship Saturday, Nov. 19 against St. John's. Photo courtesy of Chris McManes

BY CHRIS MCMANES — When Washington Catholic Athletic Conference rivals DeMatha and Good Counsel meet on the football field, the teams’ records mean very little.

No. 1 DeMatha completed the regular season unbeaten. The Falcons came in with four losses. The way the game unfolded, you might have thought their seasons were reversed.

“It’s Good Counsel-DeMatha,” Stags Head Coach Elijah Brooks said. “You can’t ever look at Good Counsel’s record when you play them. When we line up against them, we’re going to get their best shot.

“And that’s exactly what we got.”

The Falcons, from Olney, Md., led 13-7 midway through the fourth quarter and had a good chance to add more points when it all went downhill.

The Stags responded by scoring the final 21 points en route to a 28-13 victory in a WCAC semifinal playoff game Friday night in Landover.

Quarterback Beau English and fellow senior Delante Hellams teamed up for three touchdown passes. Two came in the fourth quarter. Senior defensive end Chase Young salted the DeMatha victory with a strip sack and score.

The Stags (11-0) might have been outplayed most of the night at Marvin F. Wilson Stadium, but they dug down deep and found a way to win their 16th straight game.

“I really think Good Counsel is a great team,” English said. “They were able to throw us off our game a little bit early. We knew we had to stay patient and [better play] would come eventually. That’s what we did, and we got the win.”

DeMatha will be seeking its fourth straight WCAC championship Saturday, Nov. 19, against No. 4 St. John’s at the University of Maryland. The Cadets (8-3) advanced with a 38-21 victory at Gonzaga. Game time is 2 p.m.

The Falcons scored the first touchdown on a 27-yard pass from Kameron Snell to Darnell Pratt. The Stags tied it at 7 by marching 52 yards in the final minute of the first half. Quarterback English began the drive by completing a 10-yard pass to Hellams.

DeMatha picked up 20 yards on an English run and personal foul by Good Counsel’s Daniel Brady. That moved the ball to the Falcon 12 with 13 seconds to go before halftime. English punctuated the game equalizer by finding Hellams in the left corner of the end zone.

After the Stags went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, Good Counsel went to work up front. The Falcon offensive line began opening some good holes. Mo Ibrahim, their talented senior running back, took advantage of the cracks in the DeMatha line and broke numerous tackles on the way to runs of 29 and 24 yards.

Facing a third-and-goal from the Stags’ 3, Snell faked a handoff to Ibrahim and rolled left to score with 4:11 left in the third quarter. Senior safety Myles Canton blocked J.T. Mitchell’s extra point to keep the Good Counsel lead at 13-7.

The Falcons had a golden opportunity to pad their lead midway through the final 12-minute period when they marched all the way down to the Stags’ 5-yard line. On third-and-two, linebacker Anthony Toro penetrated into the Good Counsel backfield and dropped Ibrahim with a shoestring tackle.

The 2-yard-loss set up a 24-yard field goal attempt by Mitchell. He missed wide right. Momentum swung to the DeMatha sideline.

“Absolutely,” Brooks said. “Our guys knew, ‘this is our shot’ and we responded with a great drive.”

Taking over on their 20 with 8:52 to play, the Stags got 10- and 19-yard runs from English and a 9-yarder by senior tailback Khory Spruill. An 11-yard gain by Myles Miree on what was probably supposed to be a pitch but went forward to make it a pass put DeMatha on the Falcons’ 29.

English, who struggled throwing in the first half, found Hellams open in the right corner of the end zone. Joseph Hood’s point-after gave the Stags their first lead of the night, 14-13.

Canton intercepted Snell on the ensuing drive and returned it 30 yards to the Good Counsel 25. On fourth-and-six, English and Hellams threaded the needle once again, this time in the left corner of the scoring zone. English’s third TD pass of the game put DeMatha on top, 21-13, with 3:57 left.

“We struggled with our rhythm the entire game,” Brooks said. “But Delante, being a senior leader, and Beau being able to find him — just a great job by both of those guys.”

The Stags’ vaunted running game was largely held in check. Gaining little on the ground, they turned to the air.

“We knew that they were stacking the box,” Hellams said. “We just had to throw the ball, and [Beau] and the coaches had to trust in the receivers to make the play.”

Young, an Ohio State recruit, applied the final, decisive stroke deep in Falcon territory. Rushing from the right side, he knocked the ball loose from Snell, picked it up and ran in for a TD. It was his final home game.

“I knew a play had to be made. I didn’t know it was going to be me,” Young said. “I just read my keys. I squeezed down on the tackle. [Snell] kept the ball. I hit him, it bounced out. I looked for it [and] picked it up. I didn’t want to just fall on it. So I picked it up and I just ran.”

The Stags defeated Good Counsel 48-17 for the 2015 WCAC title. One of those schools has won 10 of the past 12 championships. Brooks was impressed with how well his team’s biggest rival performed Friday night:

“They played a heck of a game. We didn’t expect anything less.”

O-Line performs well without Minor

DeMatha senior left offensive tackle Marcus Minor missed the game. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder is still recovering from the spinal contusion he suffered at the end of the Good Counsel game Nov. 4.

Minor, who will be on scholarship at Maryland next year, will not play against St. John’s.

“It’s really tough to lose a guy like Marcus,” Stags Coach Elijah Brooks said. “Victor Oluwatimi moved out to (left) tackle, and Zach (Lyons) went from guard to center. And that’s really hard to do against a very good defense like Good Counsel. But those guys did a good job and they’ll continue to work. They found a way.”

Future Air Force veterans

Friday was Veterans Day, the day we honor former and current members of the U.S. military. DeMatha seniors Beau English and Grant Donaldson will join their ranks. They have accepted appointments to the United States Air Force Academy.

English comes from a family of veterans. His father, Donny, graduated from the academy his son will attend in Colorado Springs, Colo. Beau English accounted for three touchdowns for the second consecutive week.

“We have a lot of veterans who have come through DeMatha,” he said. “Just playing for them and representing them well — that’s all we really wanted to do today.”

Donaldson, who plays tight end and linebacker, expressed similar sentiments to his quarterback and future Falcon teammate.

“I’m one of the few people in my family that will be entering a service academy,” he said. “So it’s definitely an honor and a great feeling to get a win, especially on Veterans Day.”

Air Force defeated Army and Navy this year to win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. It is the first time the Falcons can claim the prestigious award since 2011. Air Force (7-3), under Coach Troy Calhoun, is eligible for a bowl game for the seventh time in the past eight years.

Chris McManes covers DeMatha for the Hyattsville Life & Times.