WASHINGTON – For Head Coach Bill McGregor, eight plays were enough to define the football game between DeMatha Catholic High School and the Avalon School on Sept. 14.
On their opening drive, Avalon stormed down the field in seven plays, preparing for first-and-goal on the 1-yard line. An early touchdown would change the course of the entire game. However, each time the Black Knights attempted to break through, the Stags stopped them in their tracks.
Despite giving up an extra set of downs after a roughing the kicker penalty, DeMatha continued its defensive stand, ending the drive with a sack on fourth down for a turnover on downs.
“That is a character builder,” McGregor said. “Anytime you can have a goal line stand like that, anytime you can keep somebody outside your end zone with eight plays inside your 1 (yard line), it says a whole lot about the guys on the field and their determination and their effort and their fortitude. I loved it and I was the happiest guy in the world when that happened.”
The goal line stand set the tone for the rest of the contest as the DeMatha defense suffocated the Black Knights throughout the evening while the Stags rushing attack took over to lead the Hyattsville-based squad to a 33-0 thrashing win at Cardinal Stadium in Washington, D.C.
The victory is DeMatha’s second-straight win in three games. It was also the second game that the Stags limited their opponents to score less than seven points. The defensive effort in the opening drive of the game gave the offense “momentum and energy” for the rest of the game, quarterback Malakai Anthony said.
Despite DeMatha’s goal line stand, Avalon’s passing offense started well with senior quarterback Clay Vance completing four of his first five passes for 86 yards in two drives. However, in a third-down situation during the Black Knights’ second possession, Vance was striped-sacked by the DeMatha defense, who also collected the turnover.
Vance did not return to the game following the giveaway as sophomore Asa Fitch-Larivee came in during the second quarter. DeMatha took advantage of the extra possession following the fumble by converting a 19-yard field goal to score the first points of the game.
Meanwhile, Anthony, who transferred from Woodrow Wilson High School (D.C.) over the summer brought relief to the Stags with his play. While he finished with 51 passing yards, his ability to move around the pocket to keep plays alive and scramble for extra yardage extended DeMatha’s scoring opportunities.
He scored two consecutive 15-yard rushing touchdowns to give DeMatha a 17-point advantage heading into halftime. He finished with 89 rushing yards. According to McGregor, Anthony is slowly maturing into the quarterback the Stags need during Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) play.
“(I need to improve on) reading defenses and making sure that my pre-snap reads and post-snap reads are good and just to make sure the plays are executed as well,” Anthony said.
The running backs slowly took over for DeMatha in the second half. First, with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter, running back MarShawn Lloyd exploded out of the backfield and into the middle of the open field for a 55-yard touchdown on the opening play of a Stags drive. Junior Sieh Bangura followed up on DeMatha’s next possession, rushing for a 65-yard gain before scoring on a 5-yard run to increase their lead by 31 points.
The additions of Anthony and sophomore Darrien Lewis, combined with the growth of Bangura, have allowed Lloyd to lighten the number of carries per game this year. The DeMatha running game finished 309 yards and scored all five touchdowns.
“Coming out in the third quarter, we had to pull up our intensity and knew what we had to do,” Lloyd said. “It shows how deep we are. If I am out, I know that the guy behind me is going to do the exact same thing I was going to do.”
The DeMatha defense capped off its performance late in the fourth quarter when a bad snap flew over Fitch-Larivee’s head and landed in the end zone. The sophomore attempted to pick it up but was quickly tackled by two Stags to convert a safety and adding two more points onto the scoreboard.
“Anytime you get a shutout is good and I am happy with the defense performed,” McGregor said. “Now, we have to move forward…and we have to play a lot, a lot better.”
Despite the big victory, McGregor reminded his players to only enjoy the victory for 24 hours as they will host St. Ignatius on Sept. 21. The Wildcats have been considered the best team in Ohio, McGregor said, and playing them will be DeMatha’s real test before conference play.