SEABROOK – The DeMatha Catholic High School football team took a near-3,000 mile trip to the west coast to open its season against a nationally ranked football powerhouse in St. John Bosco High School, and though the Stags knew they would be squaring off against one of their toughest opponents of the year, the outcome was not quite the way they expected.
DJ Uiagalelei, widely considered as the No. 1 pocket passer in the country, got off to a rocky start in the nationally televised game (ESPN2) but found his rhythm in the second half against the Stags defense. The 6-foot-5 senior quarterback completed 17 of 37 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns to lead the No. 4 Braves to a sizable 35-7 win over DeMatha on Aug. 24 at Panish Family Stadium as part of ESPN’s GEICO High School Football Showcase.
For the first few possessions, both teams struggled offensively until Bosco scored the first touchdown of the game on a two-yard rush by Michael Hayes with seven minutes left in the first quarter. The scoring play was set up by a Uiagalelei 35-yard pass to wide receiver Logan Loya. The remainder of the opening quarter of action was marked by numerous incompletions, short rushes and three-and-out drives.
Shortly after the beginning of the second quarter, the Stags scored their only touchdown after a fourth-and-23, quarterback Malakai Anthony fired a 33-yard pass into the hands of running back MarShawn Lloyd to tie the game, 7-7.
Aside from the aforementioned scoring play, the Stags (0-1) did not rely heavily on their passing game with Anthony completing only four passes on 11 attempts for 62 yards. The transfer, listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, rushed 10 times for 29 yards. Majority of the Stags’ offensive plays were handoffs and pitches to Lloyd, a four-star running back who was the game’s leading rusher with 16 carries for 86 yards to go with his 33-yard touchdown reception.
Bosco’s defensive line and secondary made converting plays difficult for DeMatha’s receivers and rushers to break loose for any additional scoring opportunities. The Stags were held to 243 yards total while their defense allowed 533 all-purpose yards.
Head Coach Bill McGregor, who returned to DeMatha’s sidelines for the first time since 2011, said while Bosco was one of the toughest opponents of his career, the Stags could have done better.
“They’re (St. John Bosco) an outstanding football team. We just have to improve, it’s about getting a little bit better,” McGregor said. “We gotta be better offensively, we gotta be better defensively, we gotta be better on special teams. The guys never quit, the guys kept on playing hard, but you know when you’re playing against the No. 2 team in the country you gotta be almost perfect. So we just go back to the drawing board and pick up the pieces, go from there.”
On the drive following Lloyd’s touchdown, Uiagalelei connected with receiver Kris Hutson on a 56-yard play, then tossed a seven-yard pass to receiver Beaux Collins to put the Braves up 21-7 at halftime. Uiagalelei, a Clemson commit, began the game 2 of 13 but finished the game completing more than 60% of his passes to carry the Braves to the four-touchdown victory.
“We started off (doing) what we wanted to do, but we had to maintain that throughout the whole ball game and it’s tough when you have a quarterback like that,” he said, adding that going to Marshawn was a considerable part of DeMatha’s offensive strategy. “We know what we went against. We went against a really good football team. We wanted to see where we are in this stage and we see we gotta get a lot better.”
In the second half, Bosco (1-0) added two more touchdowns including a two-yard run by sophomore Jabari Bates at the bottom of the third quarter. Bates rushed again for a 50-yard touchdown with about seven and a half minutes to go in the fourth.
Loya led all receivers with nine receptions for 162 yards and Hutson added five catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Passing the ball, catching the ball, running the ball, playing the run on defense in addition to kickoff and punt coverage were some of the areas McGregor said the Stags will need to improve a lot of problems after assessing the season opener. Corrections will need to be made over the following week in preparation for Philly football powerhouse Imhotep Charter on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Catholic University’s Cardinal Stadium.
“Our main focus is on getting acclimated…just getting used to our plays, getting used to it as a unit and just focusing on one team at a time and executing every play the best that we can,” said offensive lineman Dwayne Allick said on Aug. 7.