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DeMatha defense having historic season

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Posted on: October 21, 2022

McGregor wins 300th game in rout

By Chris McManes

The DeMatha football defense is putting together a historic season. For the sixth-consecutive game, the Stags have not allowed a touchdown. The latest gem came in a 56-6 rout of Bishop McNamara on Oct. 14 in Landover.

And this time, DeMatha defenders scored two TDs of their own. The Mustangs’ only tally came on a fumble recovery. 

Sophomore defensive end Cortez Harris brings down a ball carrier in DeMatha’s win over McNamara. It was Coach Bill McGregor’s 300th career victory.
Courtesy of Ed King

With the win, the No. 2 Stags improve to 6-1 and 2-0 in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. They will play at league rival St. John’s on Saturday Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. The No. 3 Cadets (5-2 and 1-0) are the reigning WCAC champions.

“They’re a big, strong, athletic football team,” DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said.

All-Star defensive end Jason Moore, who has committed to Ohio State, said the Stags’ defense continues to improve.

DeMatha senior defensive end Jason Moore is one of the top players in the country. He has committed to Ohio State.
Courtesy of Ed King

“We’re getting better each and every week,” Moore said. “We come into practice like we’ve got a lot to earn, a lot of things to work on. We come in every day to get better.”

The Stags scored early against McNamara (2-6, 0-2) and in all three phases of the game. In addition to their four offensive touchdowns, Jacob Wallace and Kristian Tate scored on interception returns. 

Robert Stevens also picked up a punt that the Mustangs inadvertently kicked into a blocker and took it to the end zone. Dante Lovett scored on a 91-yard kickoff return.

“We scored in a lot of different facets, and that was fantastic,” McGregor said. “I don’t think it could have been any better.”

DeMatha has not allowed a touchdown since losing 11-6 on opening night in South Florida. Since then and before their latest victory, the Stags have racked up four consecutive shutouts and won at Gonzaga, 27-3. They have outscored their opponents 215-20. 

Giving the D an A

DeMatha defensive coordinator Deno Campbell, who has been with McGregor for 29 of McGregor’s 33 seasons leading the Stags, is effusive in his praise of the defense. He was asked how this unit compares to some of DeMatha’s past stellar defenses.

“First of all, we’re talented. There’s no doubt about that,” Campbell said. “But this is the smartest football team that I’ve had the privilege of coaching in my 37 years doing this. They’re extremely intelligent; they self-correct; they come off the field and can literally tell you exactly what just happened. They understand the game; they understand they can’t get outflanked; they understand that if [our opponent] has three receivers to the left that we have to have four over them in some type of zone concept. And they call a bunch of [defenses] on the field themselves.”

Campbell is so enamored with his players that he occasionally finds himself spectating.

“I don’t know if that’s good, bad or indifferent, but during the games sometimes I’m just watching and marveling at some of the things they do,” he said. “It’s a bunch of fun.”

In addition to Moore, other senior defensemen who have committed to Division I programs include Lovett (Virginia Tech) and Tawfiq Byard (South Florida). Several others, including juniors and sophomores, are fielding multiple offers. 

“It’s amazing the football IQ of this group,” Campbell said. “If you have a football IQ like that, you can afford to do a lot more. If you look at some of the things we do, we’re doing a lot. What happens is they’re ready to play at the next level.”

McGregor rolls to 300

The win over McNamara was the 300th of McGregor’s storied DeMatha career. Amazingly, he accomplished the feat before losing his 50th game. His 300-49-3 tally translates to a .857 winning percentage.

“It’s definitely great to see Coach McGregor get his 300th win,” Moore said. “For all the things that he’s done for us, it was a great way to give back to him. There are countless things he’s done for us that we’re so thankful for. 

“It was definitely great to be here on this night.” 

With several former players and 1969 DeMatha grad and CBS sportscaster James Brown on hand, school President Father James Day presented McGregor with a commemorative game ball. 

In his typical low-key fashion, McGregor credits others for his enormous success.

“I can’t thank my assistant coaches, former players, present players enough – they did it all,” he said. “The coaches do all the coaching on the field. They’re the ones who are most instrumental in everything we do.”

McGregor has enjoyed tremendous support at DeMatha since he was first hired by former principal John Moylan in 1972. 

“What I’m most proud about is how welcoming, how accepting and how caring our school administration is about not just football but every organization in the building, whether it be any other sport or club. We have 100 percent backing,” McGregor said. “It started a long time ago with John Moylan and now [current principal] Dr. [Dan] McMahon and Father James and [director of advancement] Tom Ponton. The faculty and staff at DeMatha are absolutely phenomenal. They’re the driving force. Football is just one little splinter, a piece of the pie. 

“There’s 99 percent of the other part of the pie that a lot of people put a lot of time and work into to make DeMatha what it is today.” 

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times. 

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