DeMatha football improves to 2-1 with 42-6 victory over Episcopal
By Chris McManes
Former DeMatha All-American Chase Young attended the Stags’ home opener Friday night in Landover. He liked what he saw.
DeMatha scored the first three times it had the ball en route to a 42-6 victory over Episcopal at Wilson Stadium. Junior running back Brendon Wyatt paced the offense with 154 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Senior Jaden Bacon added 63 yards and a score.
Freshman quarterback Denzel Gardner scored on a 1-yard run and threw a 5-yard TD to junior Riley Foran to give the Stags a 21-0 second-quarter lead. Defensively, DeMatha intercepted Maroon quarterback Taj Smith twice and sacked him three times.
“We were getting a lot of pressure and forcing him to roll out,” Stags junior cornerback Dante Lovett said. “He was throwing a lot of fade balls, which put me and the other [defensive backs] in good spots to get picks and pass break-ups.”
With the win, No. 10 DeMatha improves to 2-1. Episcopal was playing its first game.
Gardner, starting for the second time after senior Blake Kendall was lost for the season, finished 8 of 14 for 102 yards. Wyatt averaged 9.6 yards on 16 carries. Bacon ran nine times for a 7-yard average.
“The running game did well, but we still have to get better,” DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said. “We’ve got to mix things up a little bit more [running and passing] and keep on improving.”
Gardner wasn’t expecting to play much this year. But when Kendall dislocated his right ankle on the Stags’ second series of their first game, Gardner stepped in to help guide DeMatha to a 28-7 victory over Holy Spirit in Ocean City, N.J.
McGregor is pleased with the 6-foot, 175-pound Gardner’s progress.
“I like how he’s developing,” he said. “He’s working hard and making us into a better football team.”
Following the Stags’ only three-and-out, Smith guided Episcopal on a nine-play, 50-yard scoring drive by completing 5 of 6 passes. He punctuated it with a 14-yard strike to Buom Jock.
DeMatha, leading 21-6 at halftime, fumbled the second-half kickoff to give the Maroon the ball on the Stags’ 34. It got to the 20 before Lovett stepped in front of Jock in the end zone for his first of two interceptions.
“He did a great job at corner,” McGregor said. “He played big. He stepped up and did a great job. That interception was important because they have some pretty good receivers. Their one receiver [Jaiven Plumer] committed to Cal-Berkeley. He’s a heck of a player.”
Justin Moore and Emmett Laws recorded solo sacks for DeMatha, and Mi’Zaah Dean and Simeon Coleman combined for one.
Gardner ended the third quarter with a 43-yard pass to Kevin Winston at the Maroon 7. Wyatt scored on the next play. Bacon and Sidney Joseph concluded the scoring with rushing TDs. Daniel Holbrook converted six extra points.
The Stags committed several penalties, three of which nullified touchdowns. They were also plagued by too many missed assignments.
“There’s always room for improvement,” McGregor said. “As you can see, we’ve got a long, long way to go to be a good football team.”
Lovett played his freshman year at Arundel High School in Gambrills and last season at Pallotti in Laurel. Young, a star for the Washington Football Team, also transferred to DeMatha as a junior after playing at Pallotti.
Lovett said the schools that have been aggressively recruiting him lately are Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Penn State. In May, Boston College offered him a scholarship. He said seeing and talking to Young motivates him.
“I want to get to where he is,” Lovett said. “I want to come back to games and have the presence he has right now.”
McGregor, who returned to coach the Stags in 2019 after an eight-year hiatus, is pleased with his team.
“I love our effort. I love our intensity. I love our enthusiasm,” he said. “The thing we’ve got to do is just clean up mistakes. We’ve got to do the little things a little bit better.
“That comes down to coaching and getting the guys to just be a little more cognizant of playing football the way it’s supposed to be played.”
DeMatha plays at Friendship Collegiate Academy (1-2) in Northeast Washington, D.C., on Saturday Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. The Stags return home Friday Oct. 1 to host Life Christian Academy at 7 p.m.
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times.