DeMatha takes down St. John’s, 42-21; heads to championship game
BY CHRIS MCMANES — Terrance Davis, Elijah Johnson, Marcus Minor, Seun Oluwatimi and Zach Lyons don’t see their names in the media very often. But the DeMatha Catholic starting offensive linemen should because their blocking allows the running backs, receivers and quarterback to thrive.
Davis, Johnson and Co. played outstanding football Saturday to help lead the Stags (10-1) to a 42-21 victory over St. John’s in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference semifinals at Byrd Stadium.
The win launches DeMatha into the championship game against Good Counsel – also at Byrd Stadium – on Sunday Nov. 22 at 5 p.m. The Falcons (7-4) advanced by downing top-seeded Gonzaga (9-2), 35-12. The Stags and Good Counsel will be meeting in the title game for the 10th time in the past 12 years.
DeMatha’s stable of running backs rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns against St. John’s. Lorenzo Harrison, playing on the University of Maryland field he will call home next year, was one of the main beneficiaries of the superior line play. He ran for 122 yards and scored twice.
“The offensive line was amazing,” said Harrison, who named them one by one. “They all played perfectly. I couldn’t ask them to do any better. They opened up all the holes.”
The Stag O-line also gave Beau English the time to find Kellon Taylor for a 52-yard TD pass to put DeMatha up 14-0 in the first quarter.
“The line played one of their best games all season,” English said. “They really started it last week and brought that momentum into this game. They did a phenomenal job today.”
After the Cadets scored on a 27-yard pass play from Talik Mann to Kylia Sykes early in the second quarter, the Stags answered with an 11-play, 88-yard drive to go up 21-7. English completed all three of his passes, and Harrison rushed eight times, the last for a 17-yard TD.
St. John’s (7-4) drove right down the field and cut the deficit to 21-14 when Mann threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Sykes. Grant Donaldson got off a 47-yard punt into the end zone on DeMatha’s ensuing drive, and the Cadets took over on their 20 with 45 seconds to go before halftime.
Mann was flushed to the right under heavy pursuit by defensive end Shane Simmons and threw a short, ill-advised pass into the waiting arms of Stag defensive back Cole Williams, who returned it for a touchdown.
“It was huge,” DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks said. “We had a touchdown called back that would have put us up 21 points, so for us to get that pick-six definitely turned the tide a little bit for us.”
Before the Stags could take the momentum into the break, they had to withstand a first-and-10 on their own 17 after Aaron Hansford returned the kickoff 69 yards. The senior might have scored had kicker Luca Fazio – who also plays on DeMatha’s WCAC-champion soccer team – not made the tackle.
Mann had what would have been his third TD pass nullified on third down by a pass interference call. That moved the ball back to the 32, and Rafael Checa’s 49-yard field goal attempt was well short. The Stags took a 28-14 lead into halftime.
“The defense definitely bent but didn’t break all day,” Brooks said. “I just thought all the way around we played a solid game. You want to be playing well going into the championship.”
DeMatha boosted the lead to 42-14 on an Anthony McFarland 1-yard rushing TD and a Colton Henry 4-yarder. Henry finished with 115 yards on the ground for the Stags, who won their 22nd straight over St. John’s. The Cadets haven’t beaten DeMatha since 1992.
The Stags, ranked 15th nationally (USA Today), are No. 3 in the Washington area. Good Counsel is ranked 14th locally. DeMatha defeated the Falcons 28-23 on Nov. 6 and rallied from a 14-0 deficit in last year’s WCAC championship game to win 24-20. The Stags are looking to three-peat.
“I think it’s going to be another hard-fought game,” Harrison said. “Coach [Bob] Milloy and Good Counsel over there, they have a really well-coached team and they’ve got some athletes that can make plays for them. So we’ve just got to come in, have a great week of practice and be ready to go.”
The Falcon defense is anchored by senior first-team All-WCAC linebacker Keandre Jones. Junior Mohamed Ibrahim – who is the same size (5-foot-8, 187 pounds) as Harrison – rushed for 202 yards against the Stags this year.
“We have to be able to stop their run game, and we have to execute offensively,” Brooks said. “… So [by] playing good defense and not turning the ball over, we think we can be successful.”