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Bud Coombs’ career day leads DeMatha football into championship

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Posted on: November 14, 2023

By Chris McManes

After rushing for a career-high 227 yards and scoring three touchdowns in DeMatha’s 21-3 victory over St. John’s in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference semifinals Friday, Bud Coombs wasn’t thinking about his individual performance. 

He’s all about the team.

“It felt great getting that win for the seniors, but it’s a job not done,” Coombs said. “We’ve got one more game to win. So that’s all I’m thinking about right now, just one more win to get that ring.”

The No. 3 Stags advance to the WCAC championship against No. 1 Good Counsel on Nov. 21. The Falcons moved on with a 20-2 victory over Gonzaga. Both squads enter the title game 9-1.

Coombs had eight runs of 10 yards or better. He rushed 28 times and averaged 8.1 yards. He was quick to praise the offensive line and fullback Remy Robinson.

“The O-line did great today,” he said. “I just followed them; they did so well. I’m very proud of them and my fullback, too. They’re sacrificing for me, so I’ve got to sacrifice for them – run hard and get extra yards.” 

Coombs got DeMatha on the scoreboard less than three minutes into the contest when he burst through the line for a 55-yard TD. Maryland-bound tackle Terez Davis threw a key block to spring the junior running back.

“Bud had a tremendous night, but he would not do that alone,” Stags coach Bill McGregor said. “I thought the offensive line did well, and the defense did great, led by Emmett [Laws]. It was a good team effort from top to bottom.” 

DeMatha senior Emmett Laws brings down the St. John’s punter on the 1-yard line in the Stags’ 21-3 victory. DeMatha heads to the WCAC Capital Division championship on Nov. 21. Photo courtesy of Ed King

St. John’s put together its best drive late in the first quarter. Playing without injured running back and Oregon recruit Da’Juan Riggs, the Cadets moved from their own 20 to the Stags’ 10. The march was highlighted by a pass interference call and completions by quarterback Isaiah French to Jason Woods (12 yards) and Breyon Williams (20 yards). 

St. John’s had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Nolan Stringer. 

On its next possession, DeMatha got runs of 32, 20 and 16 yards by Coombs but was unable to cash in. On fourth and goal from the Cadets’ 1, junior quarterback Denzel Gardner was stopped for no gain.

A premature snap on fourth down doomed St. John’s next attempt to punt, and the Stags took over on their opponent’s 15. Four plays later, Coombs scored from 3 yards out to put DeMatha on top 14-3. 

The Stags’ defense forced the Cadets to punt the next six times they had the ball (excluding the end of the first half). French was injured late in the third quarter and did not return. Laws promptly greeted freshman Nyeem Woods with a four-yard sack. 

St. John’s punter later fielded a low snap and was tackled by Laws on his 1. Coombs scored from there to put DeMatha up 21-3 with 8:51 to go in the game. 

Coombs normally wouldn’t rush the ball as many times as he did, but the Stags were playing without injured sophomore running back Elijah Lee. McGregor said Lee was held out as a precautionary measure and will play against Good Counsel. 

“Elijah was unable to play, so we put the burden on Bud,” he said. “He wasn’t going to come out of the ballgame unless he had to. I thought he really stepped up. It was a great performance.”

Laws, a senior defensive lineman and Virginia Tech recruit, got plenty of help. Junior defensive back Terry Dorsey had a six-yard sack, and senior defensive end Blake Houser recorded an eight-yarder. Houser has a scholarship to play at Richmond.

Coombs, who has run for over 1,000 yards this season, was impressed with the defense: “They played lights out. Three points – that’s amazing. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”

The Stags ran the ball almost exclusively because they felt it was the best way to attack the Cadets’ two-high defense (two safeties playing deep). Gardner only passed the ball nine times, completing four for 27 yards. 

“It was a really good team effort,” McGregor said. “I thought Denzel led the ballclub very well. We caught the ball when we had to catch it. From top to bottom, it was a good team win.” 

You can watch a full replay of the game courtesy of 1st Amendment Sports. 

McGregor No. 2

The victory was the 313th of McGregor’s illustrious career. He moves past John Harvill (Gaithersburg High) into second place on the Maryland all-time wins list. Bob Malloy, who finished his career at Good Counsel, is first with 405. 

McGregor, now in his 34th year as DeMatha’s head coach, guided the Stags from 1982-2010. He returned in 2019 and has a career mark of 313-51-3. His .857 winning percentage ranks No. 1 in Maryland gridiron history. 

DeMatha vs. Good Counsel championship history

DeMatha and Good Counsel will be meeting in the WCAC championship game for the 11th time. This year’s contest will be at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Tuesday Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. 

“We’re going to be playing an outstanding opponent,” McGregor said. “What we need is outstanding preparation. That’s what’s most important.” 

The Stags, who hold a 7-3 advantage in the title game, won the first five (2004-08). The Falcons reigned supreme in 2009, ’10 and ’12. DeMatha won the past two (2014-15).

The Stags have twice beaten Good Counsel in overtime, 21-20 (2005) and 20-14 (’06). Their largest margin of victory was 48-17 in 20015. Five years prior, the Falcons enjoyed a 42-3 win.

Good Counsel handed DeMatha its only loss this season, 35-28 in overtime, on Oct. 13. 

From Hyattsville and Olney to the NFL

Good Counsel alumni who played in the WCAC title game against the Stags and went on to the NFL include, among others, Sam Mustipher (Baltimore Ravens), Kendall Fuller (Washington Commanders), Blake Countess (Los Angeles Rams), Dorian O’Daniel (Kansas City Chiefs), Keandre Jones (Cincinnati Bengals) and Stefon Diggs (Buffalo Bills).

Among the DeMatha NFL alumni from those games are John Lovett (Green Bay Packers), Anthony McFarland (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ja’Whaun Bentley (New England Patriots), Olu Oluwatimi (Seattle Seahawks), Arie Kouandjio (Washington Redskins) and Chase Young (San Francisco 49ers). 

Ticket information

Tickets to the championship game are $15 and only available via Ticket Spicket. No cash sales at the gate.  

Chris McManes covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times.

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