DeMatha defense playing lights out, Stags honor fallen hero
By CHRIS McMANES — For the past three weeks, a DeMatha football coach has had a very important job the Sunday following a game: bring eight dozen donuts to campus. That’s the reward the Stags get for keeping their opponent out of the end zone.
DeMatha brings a three-shutout streak into its game tonight against Friendship Collegiate Academy, 7 p.m. at Catholic University. The Stags (4-1) enter with a four-game winning streak and are ranked second in the Washington area.
Friendship Collegiate, coached by former Catholic All-American Mike Hunter, is 3-2 and ranked 13th. It will be DeMatha’s final game before the start of Washington Catholic Athletic Conference play.
Life Christian Academy was the Stags’ latest shutout victim, Sept. 27 in Landover. DeMatha sacked the Eagles quarterback twice on their opening drive and ended the night with a safety and an interception return touchdown by senior Wesley Matthews.
“Once again,” Stags Coach Bill McGregor said, “our defense played extremely well.”
DeMatha’s stud running back MarShawn Lloyd got his team on the scoreboard early in the second quarter with a 9-yard run. The South Carolina recruit took the handoff from Malakai Anthony and went up the middle.
Senior center Dylan Foster and right guard senior Golden Achumba’s key blocks created all the daylight Lloyd needed.
Following Kam’Ryn Thomas’ interception, fellow junior Sieh Bangura scooted in off right tackle from three yards to make it 14-0. Life Christian’s ensuing drive stalled at the Stags’ 17 when junior cornerback Antoine Booth intercepted at the 5.
DeMatha surged ahead 21-0 when Anthony, a senior transfer from Wilson High, rolled left and found senior tight end Nigel Newby alone at the 20 for a 21-yard scoring pass.
The Stags have been getting strong play from all three phases, particularly in their 42-0 win over St. Ignatius on Sept. 21.
“We did very, very well offensively, defensively and on special teams,” McGregor said. “I never expected that against such a quality team in St. Ignatius. They are a storied, tradition-rich football program. …
“We just happened to click on all cylinders and took advantage of a number of mistakes that they made.”
Lloyd, who scored on a 55-yard run in DeMatha’s 33-0 win over Avalon on Sept. 13, had a 75-yard house call on the Stags’ first drive against the Wildcats.
“On the second play, we ran an inside zone and MarShawn went 75 yards [for the touchdown],” McGregor said. “It was a great way to start.
“One thing I always talk to the team about is that we want to start fast. We ended up scoring another touchdown in the first quarter to go up fourteen to nothing. It puts you in a good position.”
Lloyd rushed for another score, and Bangura had two against the Wildcats’ 3-3-5 defense.
“We knew if we could get through the box we were in good shape,” McGregor said. “The hard part was getting through that six-man stacked box. But fortunately, we were able to and make some big plays against them.”
Honoring a hero
The Stags’ victory over St. Ignatius was dedicated to the memory of Brendan Looney. The 1999 DeMatha High grad and former Navy Seal was killed in action on Sept. 21, 2010.
“It was the ninth anniversary of his death,” Stags Coach Bill McGregor said, “and we wanted to pay tribute to Brendan for the incredible sacrifice that he made for our country.
“The Convocation Center here at DeMatha is named after Brendan. When MarShawn [Lloyd] scored his first touchdown, he came to the bench and said, ‘This one was for Brendan Looney.’”
Following the game, at DeMatha’s annual crab feast, school moderator Father Damian Anuszewski presented a game ball to Brendan’s father, Kevin, DeMatha class of 1974.
Brendan played football, baseball, basketball and ran track for the Stags. He helped McGregor’s 1998 squad defeat Gonzaga, 49-13, to win the Washington Metropolitan Athletic Conference championship. Brendan played lacrosse at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“He was on our minds and in our hearts the entire game,” McGregor said.
Brendan was only 29 when he killed in a helicopter crash while serving in Afghanistan.
“It was a mission he didn’t have to be on but decided to go to assist a friend, who was just starting his deployment,” DeMatha Advancement Director Tom Ponton recently wrote to colleagues. “Brendan was looking forward to ending his and going back home.”
McGregor said Brendan was an “incredible person, a true DeMatha gentleman and scholar.”
DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor and his St. Ignatius counterpart, Chuck Kyle, played together at John Carroll University, an NCAA Division III school outside of Cleveland. The Wildcats offensive coordinator, Nick Restifo, also played during that time.
“I think Chuck has five or six coaches who went to John Carroll,” said McGregor, a four-year starting linebacker for the Blue Streaks from 1967-70.
Kyle and McGregor have won more than 600 games between them.
“I’ve seen Chuck a number of times at coaching clinics,” McGregor said, “but I don’t think I’d seen him since the ’90s.”
Kyle has led the Wildcats to 11 Ohio state championships and three national titles. They will host DeMatha next year in Cleveland.
“St. Ignatius is a renowned program in Ohio,” McGregor said. “It was an honor to play against a great team and a great program.”
Northeastern Ohio coaching cradle
In addition to Chuck Kyle and Bill McGregor, another former John Carroll player now coaching is Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
“The pro team that’s loaded with Carroll guys is the New England Patriots,” McGregor said. “I think they have five or six guys in their organization.”
The school’s most famous football alumnus is former Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula, who sits atop the NFL all-time wins list (347, including playoffs.)
Shula guided Miami to two Super Bowl championships (1972-73). His 1972 team finished 17-0 for the only perfect season in NFL history.
“I think it all goes back to Coach Shula,” McGregor said. “He was like the first coaching legend to ever come out of there.”
Around the WCAC
St. John’s scored two late first-half touchdowns on Sept. 27 to take a 21-20 lead over Mater Dei (5-0) of Santa Ana, Calif., the top-ranked team in the nation. However, led by quarterback and Alabama recruit Bryce Young, the Monarchs demolished the Cadets 33-3 in the second half en route to 53-24 victory at Catholic University.
Things got so bad for St. John’s that an assistant coach berated a group of his players with a flurry of f-bombs. When another assistant took exception to the invective, players had to step in to keep the coaches from going after each other.
Tre Williams had an outstanding game for the Cadets. The senior defensive tackle spent much of the night in the Mater Dei backfield. He has committed to attend reigning national champion Clemson.
Gonzaga (5-0) remains No. 1. DeMatha (4-1) is second and Good Counsel (4-1) fourth. Bishop McNamara, the fifth member of the WCAC Capital Division, is 4-1 but unranked.
Archbishop Carroll has performed the best in the Metro Division and stands 4-2.
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times.