DeMatha football offense, defense clicking in 38-0 victory over Friendship
BY CHRIS MCMANES — DeMatha’s offense scored touchdowns on its first three drives Friday night. Its defense added two second-half scores en route to a 38-0 victory at Friendship Collegiate Academy.
It was the No. 10 Stags (3-1) most complete game of the season.
“We did a great job. We came out, marched right down and scored the first few times we had the ball. I thought we set the tone there,” DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said. “Defensively, we had a pretty good night, too.”
Stags freshman quarterback Denzel Gardner threw for two TDs and rushed for one. Junior Brendon Wyatt ran 16 times for 88 yards.
Friendship, under Coach Mike Hunter, is a much-better team than its 1-3 record indicates. All three of its losses have come against Washington Catholic Athletic Conference teams.
“Mike does a great job,” McGregor said. “They’re always very, very well-coached. They play hard, they play fast, they play tough. I just thought we were prepared to play and did a really nice job tonight.”
DeMatha took the opening kickoff at Hense Field 70 yards and scored on Gardner’s 11-yard run. His 14-yard pass to K.J. Winston made it 14-0. Winston caught the ball in the left flat and broke three tackles. The Penn State recruit finished with four receptions for 61 yards.
Gardner was perfect on the Stags’ first two drives, completing all six of his passes for 85 yards. He ended the night 10 of 12 for 118 yards and added 36 yards on three carries. He made it 21-0 when he rolled left and found a wide-open Kalen Cobb from 10 yards out.
“Denzel did a nice job,” McGregor said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of him when we can run the football, and I thought we were able to run the football tonight. I thought we established the run pretty well, and then it’s his job to basically manage the game the rest of the way.
The DeMatha defense was so dominant that it held the Knights to 35 total yards. It forced five punts and had three interceptions.
“That’s a real tribute to our defense. I don’t think they could have done any better than they did,” McGregor said. “The coverage was really good. We had good pressure on the quarterback. We stopped the run game. It was a good night at the ranch.”
Zilan Williams collected the Stags’ first pick and returned it 36 yards to make it 31-0 early in the third quarter. Tawfiq Byard increased the lead to 38 points with a 12-yard interception return. On Friendship’s ensuing possession, quarterback Jaylen Croskey was picked off again, this time by Kshawn Cox.
McGregor said he’s happy with his team’s progress.
“I love our attitude; I love our effort,” he said. “We’re really starting to learn how to practice at the level we have to to be a great football team. It’s starting to catch on. We’re a young team. We’re not playing a lot of seniors, and the young guys are really stepping up, doing a great job.
“We’re starting to mature a little; we’ve played four football games. We’re starting to feel comfortable on the field.”
The big boys – DeMatha’s offensive line deserves much of the credit for the team’s dominance the past two weeks, including its 42-6 victory on Sept. 10. The principal linemen include junior Michael Crounse (6-foot-5, 300 pounds), senior Aidan Stair (6-1, 280), senior Jake Getsinger (6-4, 295), junior Brandon Smith (6-3, 280), junior Kamron Frye (6-5, 290) and junior Oluwatosin Babalade (6-6, 290).
“Our offensive line is getting much better,” McGregor said. “Those six guys are in and out of the lineup, and I thought they did a great job. They controlled the line of scrimmage, they controlled the tempo and did what we had to do.”
Getting their kicks – The Knights’ Keyon Webb-Starkey had two long punts from deep in his own territory. His first, from the 6-yard line, travelled to midfield. The second, from the 2, went 58 yards.
Stags’ senior Daniel Holbrook pinned Friendship at its 6 with his only punt of the night, a 57-yarder. He drilled four of his kickoffs into the end zone and made a 29-yard field goal.
DeMatha has the week off before returning to action against Life Christian Academy in Landover on Friday Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. The Eagles (3-3) have several Division I prospects.
“They’re a big, strong football team out of the Richmond (Va.) area,” McGregor said.
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times.