By CHRIS McMANES — If DeMarcco Hellams didn’t wear uniform No. 1, No. 3 would fit him well. The DeMatha wide receiver and defensive back has gone beyond being one of the nation’s top two-way players.
He’s more of a triple threat.
In the Stags’ 30-14 victory over Good Counsel in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference semifinals on Nov. 9, Hellams scored two touchdowns, intercepted two passes and blocked a punt that resulted in a safety. That’s 14 points he scored by himself.
“He’s one of the best to come through DeMatha,” Stags Head Coach Elijah Brooks said. “He has the ability to impact the game in all three phases. It’s tough to find guys who can excel in all areas.”
DeMatha, ranked No. 1 by The Washington Post, will take on No. 2 Gonzaga in the WCAC Capital Division Championship on Sunday at Catholic University’s Cardinal Stadium. Kickoff is 6 p.m.
Hellams and his fellow seniors are looking to close out their careers with the Stags’ record-25th conference championship.
“I’m excited,” Hellams said. “It’s my last opportunity to get out there and play with my brothers, play for my team and play for DeMatha. I won a championship as a freshman and a sophomore but missed out last year. As a senior, I’m just looking to get it done.”
It won’t be easy for the Stags (8-2) to win their fifth crown in the past six years. The Eagles (8-3) are coming off a 24-14 victory at previously top-ranked St. John’s and are making their second consecutive title game appearance.
“We want to bring the championship trophy back to Hyattsville,” Hellams said.
DeMatha and Gonzaga played a triple-overtime thriller on Oct. 12. It ended in a 27-21 Stags victory when Hellams intercepted a Caleb Williams pass in the end zone and, one play later, Marshawn Lloyd rushed for a 25-yard touchdown.
“This game is going to be as tough as the first one,” Brooks said. “It’s going to be hard fought and a great high-school atmosphere.”
Hudl featured Hellams and Eagles defensive end Joseph Weté prior to the game. Weté, like Hellams, is a four-star recruit. He’s heading to Oklahoma.
In DeMatha’s playoff win over Good Counsel, Hellams opened the scoring with a 60-yard screen pass. He made it 9-0 when he blocked a punt that went out of the end zone. Early in the third quarter, he gave the Stags a 23-7 lead by connecting with quarterback Eric Najarian on a 44-yard touchdown pass.
On the final play before halftime, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Hellams intercepted freshman Chase Williams at the DeMatha 26 and returned it 36 yards. He added a 42-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. It was Hellams’ final game at Wilson Stadium in Landover.
“I wanted my last game on this field to go out with a bang,” said Hellams, who in June committed to play for undefeated and reigning national champion Alabama.
Hellams comes to Hyattsville for school from his home in Southeast Washington where he lives with his parents, Delante Sr. and Joyce. His older brother, Delante Jr., is a redshirt freshman receiver at Stony Brook. He played on the Stags’ 2015 title team.
“Marcco,” as he’s known to his friends and teammates, played football on Capitol Hill for the Watkins Hornets. In eighth grade, he competed for the West Lake Bulldogs, the year he first started playing wide receiver.
Hellams continued on the offensive side of the ball for the DeMatha freshman team and played in several varsity games. As a sophomore, he started playing defensive back. This year, from his free safety position, he has eight interceptions. Offensively, he’s caught nine touchdown passes.
Brooks explained that the Stags have benefited from Hellams’ increased offensive playing time.
“We tried to manage his reps earlier in the season, but the production just wasn’t there on offensive side of the ball,” he said. “So, we needed more snaps out of him offensively. And as senior captain is expected to do, he stepped up and really helped us out.”
Playing on both sides of the ball and on punt coverage doesn’t give Hellams much of a break on game day. Plus, during the week, he has study two game plans and practice with three units.
“It’s demanding on your body and you have a lot to learn,” he said. “Once the game is over, your body has time to heal. But for those 48 minutes, your team needs you.”
Hellams received 28 scholarship offers, some to play defensive back, some wide receiver. A few schools told him he could play both. He took unofficial visits to Penn State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Michigan. His parents accompanied him on his only official visit, to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
“I went to Alabama and just knew it was the place for me,” he said. “I knew I didn’t need any more [official visits]. I’d seen the best out there.”
The Crimson Tide have dominated the Southeastern Conference and much of the nation under Coach Nick Saban. Since his arrival in 2007, Alabama has won five SEC titles and five national championships. Since 2016, the Tide has posted a record of 37-2 (.949) and won a pair of national titles.
Hellams thinks the coaching he has received at DeMatha, as well as playing in the WCAC, has prepared him for big-time college football. He’s confident heading south.
“I’ve been around people that worked, and I don’t let people out-work me,” he said. “I’ve played against great competition before high school. I’ve played against great competition in high school. I’ve worked with great coaches, like Coach Brooks and Coach Josh [Wilson], guys that push you.
“I come from a high school that competes at the highest level, competes nationally. We compete [against] the hardest leagues in the country. So, going to Alabama won’t be much of a major difference as far as coaching-wise, as far as skill-level guys I’m playing with.”
Hellams, who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, is sure to join senior strong safety Nick Cross as an All-American. The duo is part of a five-man starting defensive backfield that includes Josh Wallace, Mekai Davis and Dominic Logan-Nealy. The five seniors arguably give the Stags the No. 1 secondary in the nation.
Cross is heading to Florida State, Davis to Delaware. Wallace will choose between football and basketball offers. Brooks said Logan-Nealy is receiving Division I notice. Both he and Wallace have returned interceptions for touchdowns this season.
How the backfield matches up with Gonzaga quarterback Caleb Williams and his arsenal of talented receivers could go a long way in determining who wins the championship.
“I know me and Nick get most of the attention, but I know some of the shine should go to guys like Domo, Mekai, Josh,” Hellams said. “Those guys are a little bit under the radar, but they make their plays. Josh and Domo follow the [opponents’] best receiver. Josh has come on strong this year, his first year playing football. …”
Brooks, who has led his alma mater to four WCAC titles (2013-16), is looking forward to playing in a more intimate setting.
“We enjoyed our time at Navy and Maryland,” he said, “but this is going to feel like twenty-, thirty-thousand people out there because it’s going to be standing room only.”
This will be the eighth championship game meeting between DeMatha and Gonzaga – the only two all-boys schools in the WCAC – since the formation of the league 25 years ago. DeMatha holds a 5-2 series edge, with wins in 1993, ’95, ’98, 2001 and 2003. Gonzaga defeated the Stags in 1997 and 2002. Former Catholic University defensive tackle Drew Anderson was a member of the ’97 team. …
Gonzaga alumnus Jeff Clay was a two-time first-team All-American (1996-97) at Catholic University. Tom Clark, his college head coach, came to the school from Bishop McNamara. Clay was inducted into the Catholic Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016. He played at Gonzaga under the legendary Maus Collins, after whom the WCAC football championship trophy is named. …
Bishop O’Connell (3-8), a surprise 35-33 winner over top-seeded Paul VI last week, will meet St. Mary’s Ryken (9-2) in the WCAC Metro Division championship at 1 p.m. O’Connell beat the Knights during the regular season, 42-6. St. Mary’s advanced with a 48-0 shutout of Archbishop Carroll. This is the first year the league has two tiers.
Fans can see both title games for $10.
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) is a Hyattsville coach and sportswriter. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisMcManes1.