BY CHRIS MCMANES — Despite having locked up the top seed in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs, the DeMatha football team won’t have trouble finding motivation to play well Friday night.
The No. 1-ranked Stags (9-0, 5-0 WCAC) travel to Olney to face Good Counsel (6-3, 3-2) at 8 p.m. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.
“It’s a respectful rivalry,” DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks said. “We could be playing for last place in the league and we would go at it pretty good. It’s a game that brings the best out of both programs.”
Win or lose, the Stags will host Good Counsel in a first-round playoff game on Nov. 11 at Marvin F. Wilson Stadium in Landover. Game time is 7 p.m.
The other two playoff participants, Gonzaga and St. John’s, will play this Saturday. Whoever wins that game will host the other WCAC semifinal on Nov. 12.
Last year, all four teams played the first round on the same day at the University of Maryland. The state’s flagship College Park campus will host the championship game on Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. DeMatha has won the past three crowns.
The Stags defeated Good Counsel twice last season, including 48-17 in the title game. The Falcons’ two conference losses came to St. John’s and Gonzaga. DeMatha is 5-0 on the road.
Good Counsel and the Stags have been the two most dominant WCAC teams for more than a decade. They have met in the championship game 10 of the past 12 years. Playing on national TV adds more spice to the rivalry.
“Absolutely,” said Brooks, who is in his sixth year as DeMatha head coach. “It’s a great stage for our guys to play on. They have family from out of town who will be able to check them out. It’s a great overall experience. We’re definitely excited.”
Stags senior quarterback Beau English, who has been hobbled by a high right ankle injury, will play Friday night. He missed the team’s last game Oct. 21, a 42-0 victory over Carroll.
“I’m not going to say he’s at 100 percent,” Brooks said, “but he’s close to it.”
DeMatha has such a strong running game that it doesn’t have to depend on a stellar passing performance from English or his backup, Tyler Lenhart. Khory Spruill, Marshawn Lloyd and Myles Miree pace the Stags’ rushing attack.
DeMatha is so deep at the position that it has overcome injury to Anthony McFarland. One of the top running backs in the nation, McFarland has missed the entire season.
In the win over Carroll, Detrick Washington and Carlton Taylor also saw significant time in the backfield. Washington scored from 7 yards out, and Taylor tallied on runs of 5 and 1 yards.
The Stags are led defensively by Grant Donaldson (linebacker) and fellow seniors Chase Young (defensive end) and Myles Canton (safety). Young is an All-American who will play next year at Ohio State. Canton leads the club in interceptions and is deciding among a number of scholarship offers. Donaldson and English are heading to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“We’re extremely confident that running the ball, not turning it over and playing good defense will lead us to success,” Brooks said. “It’s paid off so far.”
Chris McManes reports on DeMatha athletics for the Hyattsville Life & Times.