BY CHRIS McMANES — DeMatha followed its worst half of football this season Friday night with one of its best. Led once again by their defense, the Stags rallied for a 17-14 victory over McDonogh at Wilson Stadium in Landover.
Senior John Morgan, who has committed to play for Pittsburgh, led the charge for DeMatha (3-1). He had two sacks and spearheaded a defense that forced the Eagles (2-1) to punt four times in the second half and gain just one first down.
“He’s had a phenomenal season on both sides of the ball, defensive end and tight end,” Stags Coach Elijah Brooks said. “I’m really proud of the way he’s been playing. He’s worked hard at it. He’s finally had his opportunity to show what he can do, and he’s doing it.”
DeMatha, ranked No. 1 in the Washington area and No. 15 nationally, was facing The Baltimore Sun’s third-ranked team. The private school from Owings Mills had the Stags facing their largest halftime deficit of the season, 14-7.
“It all starts with me, but we played as poorly a game that I’ve been involved with: lack of execution, penalties, blown coverages, not staying on our blocks,” Brooks said. “So, to pull this one out, I’m relieved. But we have to get better.”
DeMatha scored on its opening possession when Tyler Lenhart found DeMarcco Hellams on a 16-yard fade pattern. McDonogh started the ensuing drive on its own 40 following an unnecessary roughness call against the Stags.
A 12-yard run by Eagles quarterback DeJuan Ellis and four DeMatha penalties helped move the ball to the Stags’ 2. Ellis, who has committed to play for Virginia Tech, scored from there to tie the game.
Ellis added a second rushing touchdown, this one from the 6 to give McDonogh the lead with 51 seconds to go before the break. The speedy QB started to his right before reversing field and out-racing DeMatha defenders into the left corner of the end zone. Ellis set up the score by completing a 54-yard pass to B.J. Farrare.
“Those are the plays that have been killing us all year,” Brooks said.
Junior Deion Green stopped the Eagles’ first drive after halftime with an end zone interception. After a five-yard sack by Morgan and a 17-yard punt return by Jermaine Johnson, the Stags took over on the McDonogh 28. Myles Miree gained 27 yards on four straight carries, and Lenhart snuck it in from the 1 to tie the game late in the third quarter.
Miree ran the ball 16 times for 72 yards.
“We didn’t attack the way we wanted to up front, but Myles found holes and got the most out of his runs,” Brooks said. “I thought he ran well tonight.”
Anthony Hill, DeMatha’s other starting defensive end, broke up an Ellis pass in the Eagles’ backfield on third down to force another punt. A 22-yard Miree run set up Joseph Hood’s 23-yard field goal with 5:54 to play.
Hill saved a bigger gain with an ankle tackle on McDonogh’s final possession. On third-and-4 from the Stags’ 47, Morgan broke free and sacked Ellis for a nine-yard loss. DeMatha was forced to punt with 2:19 to go but kept possession when the Eagles were called for roughing the kicker.
Brooks was pleased with his squad’s defensive effort, particularly in the second half.
“I thought our guys did a great job of rallying to the football,” he said. “Outside of the one touchdown right before the half on third-and-18, I felt like our guys did pretty well in pass coverage.”
Morgan said the Stags did not change their game plan at halftime. It had more to do with finding the desire to play better.
“It was just something that the guys had to come from an inner perspective, and fight and work harder in the second half,” he said.
After posting consecutive shutouts in games it had firmly in control, DeMatha had to overcome some adversity Friday in what is becoming a top nonconference rivalry.
“The one thing that I wanted to see out of this team was whether they were going to fight through some tough times,” Brooks said. “They did that, and we’re going to build on that.”
Hood is Good
DeMatha junior kicker Joseph Hood nailed the game-winning 23-yard field goal against McDonogh. It was his first field goal attempt since he hit a 36-yarder Aug. 25 at Bishop Gorman.
Hood, a 5-10, 183-pound junior who also punts, gives the Stags one of the best kicking games in the area. His kickoffs routinely land inside the opponents’ 5-yard line.
DeMatha quarterback Tyler Lenhart was 11 of 18 for 99 yards Friday. He threw one interception and one touchdown.
DeMarcco Hellams and Jermaine Johnson each had three receptions for 33 yards. Dominic Lyles caught three passes for 29 yards.
DeMatha hosts Friendship Collegiate Academy of Washington on Friday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. The Knights entered last week’s 25-19 win over H.D. Woodson ranked sixth by The Washington Post. Friendship (3-0) is coached by former Catholic University All-American wide receiver Mike Hunter.
The game is part of Touchdowns Against Cancer, a national initiative to defeat childhood cancer.
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times.