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DeMatha falls short in football championship, finishes 10-2

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Posted on: November 27, 2022

By Chris McManes

The DeMatha defense did its part to help the Stags win the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference football championship. The DeMatha offense did not. 

The Stags held St. John’s to 100 total yards but were unable to pierce the end zone in a 7-3 loss in the WCAC Capital Division title game Nov. 20 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. 

It was the first time DeMatha had been held without a touchdown all season. 

“We just couldn’t make anything happen offensively,” Stags Coach Bill McGregor said. 

DeMatha senior linebacker Luke Hackett was among several Stags shedding tears in the locker room. 

“It’s really disappointing,” Hackett said. “I’ve been with most of these guys [for] like four years. It just hurts really bad. To think of how much work we’ve put in and the outcome not to be what we wanted – it stinks.”

DeMatha, ranked No. 1 at game time, finishes an otherwise very good season 10-2. The Cadets entered second-ranked and improved to 8-4. 

The Stags, who recorded four shutouts this season and allowed just 65 points, held St. John’s to nine first downs and 3 of 10 third-down conversions. 

“You give somebody 100 yards total offense and seven points, you’ve got to win the game,” McGregor said. “We had three turnovers and couldn’t capitalize on good field position. It just was not good.”

The St. John’s defense deserves a lot of credit for the Stags’ offensive woes. The Cadets gave up 195 total yards and added two interceptions and three sacks. 

DeMatha senior Brendon Wyatt rushed for 451 yards and six touchdowns in his final three games. He was named second-team All-WCAC. Courtesy of Ed King

“St. John’s is a good defensive team; they did a great job,” McGregor said. “I want to say congratulations to Coach [Pat] Ward and the St. John’s coaching staff. Their players did a great job.” 

DeMatha, which came into the contest averaging 28.3 points per game, managed just 12 first downs while converting 4 of 14 (29 percent) on third down. It only penetrated the red zone twice.

Stags senior Tawfiq Byard intercepted Isaiah French on the game’s third play to give his team the ball on the Cadets’ 17-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 6, sophomore quarterback Denzel Gardner ran for two yards to set up Jackson Peterson’s 21-yard field goal. 

DeMatha’s best drive came in the second quarter when it went from its own 9 to the St. John’s 16. Gardner was 3 of 4, including a 24-yarder to Cody Williams. On second-and-10 from the 16, a bad snap resulted in a 6-yard loss. Gardner’s next completion was fumbled at the 12, picked up at the 7 and returned 28 yards. 

Bud Coombs brought the second-half kickoff back 36 yards to midfield, but the Stags lost 10 yards in three plays and were forced to punt. 

Gardner’s best pass of the night, a 40-yarder to Williams, moved the ball to the Cadets’ 30. Once again, DeMatha went backwards and punted from the St. John’s 42. 

Despite the favorable field position throughout the evening, “We couldn’t do anything with it,” McGregor said. 

The Stags then stopped the Cadets on fourth-and-two and took over at their 38. The possession ended with an interception. 

DeMatha’s Cortez Harris had an eight-yard sack, and when fellow sophomore Jacob Wallace picked off Myles Slade, the Stags set up shop at the St. John’s 44. 

Four plays later, the Cadets regained the ball at their 47. On third down from the 11, Slade got the ball just over a defensive back, and Asa Gregg snagged it in the right corner of the end zone with 1:46 to play.

Gardner’s final pass was intercepted, and St. John’s began celebrating its second straight WCAC crown. Gardner finished 8 of 16 for 107 yards. Williams caught four passes for 75 yards.

Brendon Wyatt, who had rushed for 371 yards and six TDs in his previous two games, was limited to 80 yards on 24 attempts. Tovani Mizell ran three times for 14 yards. 

McGregor said he felt “really bad” for his 27 seniors.

“They’re a great group,” he said. “You love them, and they did everything we asked them to do. I feel like I let them down. It’s my job to get it done.” 

DeMatha downed St. John’s 17-14 on Oct. 22 in Northwest Washington but was unable to add on to its league-best 24 championships. 

“I think the difference was whoever made the bigger play,” Hackett said. “They came up with a big play at the end of the game, and they won. We didn’t make plays when we had to. Stuff happens; it’s football.”

All-WCAC – Jason Moore was named WCAC Defensive Player of the Year. The senior defensive lineman has committed to play at national power Ohio State. 

Bill McGregor, who won his 300th career game this season, was named WCAC Coach of the Year. It is the 13th time he has been so recognized.

League coaches also honored the following Stags:

First Team

Emmett Laws, Jr. DL

Dante Lovett, Sr. DB

Tawfiq Byard, Sr. DB

Luke Hackett, Sr. LB

Noah Vitko, Sr. LS

Michael Crounse, Sr. OL

Brandon Smith, Sr. OL

Cody Williams, Jr. UT

Second Team

Tovani Mizell, Jr. RB

Brendon Wyatt, Sr. RB

Denzell Gardner, So. QB

Kristian Tate, Sr. WR

Elijah Yarbrough, Sr. DL

Robert Stevens, Sr. DB

Chris Koffi, So. LB

Brian Bates, Sr. LB

Jackson Peterson, Jr. P

Honorable Mention

Gerald Campbell, Sr. WR

Anthony Jones, Sr. OL

Dhonte Jackson, Jr. DB

Oluwatosin Babalade, Sr. OL

Nathaniel Owusu-Boateng, So. LB

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) has covered DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times since 2015. 

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