BY CHRIS McMANES DeMatha — Coach Elijah Brooks’ recipe for success is a dominating defense and a strong running game. The Stags used both of those ingredients in the second half of their 42-18 victory over Friendship Collegiate on Friday night at Wilson Stadium in Landover.
“At the end of the day, that’s how you win football games,” said Brooks, who has led DeMatha to the past four Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) championships.
The No. 1 Stags (4-1) overwhelmed the sixth-ranked Knights (3-1) on both sides of the ball in the third and early fourth quarters. Three rushing touchdowns and a fumble return TD erased the four-point deficit they faced at halftime.
After allowing scoring plays of 43, 23 and 91 yards in the first half, DeMatha marched 74 yards on its opening second-half possession. Detrick Washington scored from the 3 on an 11-play drive that featured 10 running plays.
Myles Miree had four runs of 10 or more yards on the drive and finished with a team-high 82 yards and one touchdown. He has emerged as the Stags’ featured running back since Marshawn Lloyd was hurt and is not expected to return before late in the season.
Jaylen Johnson made it 28-18 when he scampered 53 yards down the left sideline. The 5-foot-6, 135-pound junior broke an arm tackle and was pushed into the end zone by Chauncey Moore.
Friendship had a good chance to get back in the game after driving to the DeMatha 26. But the Stags forced a fumble that went straight into DeMarcco Hellams’ arms. The junior wide receiver/defensive back took it back 78 yards to give DeMatha a 17-point lead with 10:04 to play.
“It was sent from God right into my hands,” Hellams said with a laugh.
The Stags’ defense kept the pressure on the next time the Knights took possession. Junior defensive back Nick Cross intercepted the ball at the Friendship 35 and returned it 24 yards. Dominic Logan-Nealy closed the scoring with a 5-yard run. He finished with 61 of DeMatha’s 195 rushing yards.
“I thought our offensive line did an outstanding job,” Brooks said. “We ran and controlled the ground game [after halftime].”
Friendship Coach Mike Hunter explained how the game got away from his team in the third quarter.
“DeMatha just started leaning on us,” Hunter said. “They ran the ball down our throat and we missed tackles. That’s what football is, blocking and tackling, and we didn’t do a good job in the second half.”
Stags quarterback Tyler Lenhart was 9 of 17 passing for 133 yards. He threw one interception and had a 37-yard scoring pass to Jermaine Johnson. He only passed the ball once after the break.
“Defenses are almost forcing us to open it up and throw the ball,” Brooks said. “They’re stacking the box and making us throw the football. But we just committed to running downhill in the second half, no matter what.”
A “monumental” game
The DeMatha-Friendship game was considered such a top local matchup that it was broadcast live by the Monumental Sports Network. It was also the Stags’ Homecoming.
A deserving No. 1
Mike Hunter, Friendship Collegiate Academy head coach and athletic director, has been familiar with DeMatha football for years. Before becoming an All-American wide receiver at Catholic University in 1998, he played at Gonzaga. He came away impressed with The Washington Post’s top-ranked team.
“DeMatha is the No. 1 team in the area for a reason,” Hunter said. “It’s not hype. That’s what they deserve.”
The Stags are ranked 15th in the USA Today Sports Super 25 Expert Rankings. WCAC foe St. John’s is No. 24.
DeMatha has a week off before opening WCAC play with No. 4 Gonzaga. The game is set for Wilson Stadium on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. The Purple Eagles (4-1) host Bishop McNamara on Friday Sept. 29.
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times.