Our Lady of Good Counsel High School senior Kendall Fuller lagged behind his teammates after the game, his dazzling 75-yard punt return hours earlier a distant memory.
“Captains up front,” someone called, arranging for a photo with Good Counsel football coach Bob Milloy, the team’s leaders and the Great American Rivalry Series trophy. Just walking those last 15 yards was a challenge for the Fuller, who was bothered by leg cramps, shoulder soreness and a late-game hit to the head.
The picture might have been taken without the slow-moving Fuller — if not for everyone having to wait for him to arrive for his solo photo with the game MVP trophy first.
Fuller, who’s committed to Virginia Tech, returned a punt for a touchdown in the first quarter and broke up the potentially game-winning pass during the final defensive stand to lead Good Counsel to a 13-10 victory against DeMatha Catholic on Friday in Olney. On a night most of the 107 offensive plays went for one yard or fewer, Fuller’s playmaking ability proved the difference.
“It’s huge,” Milloy said. “He’s our guy. I told them before the game, I said, ‘In these kind of games, the special teams usually has something to do with the outcome.’ And there it was.”
Fuller was one of several Good Counsel players to suffer injuries during the game, including top running back and linebacker Dorian O’Daniel. O’Daniel, who’s committed to Clemson, left the game late in the first half with a shoulder injury.
But Good Counsel clawed and survived to hang on after leading 13-3 at halftime.
DeMatha quarterback John Lovett, with his team’s pass offense clicking in the second half, threw a 42-yard touchdown to Darryl Turner early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 13-10. Facing a third-and-6 from the Good Counsel 15-yard line later in the quarter, Lovett threw to the end zone only for Fuller to break up the pass.
On the next play DeMatha couldn’t handle the snap for the game-tying field attempt, and Good Counsel ran out the clock.
Good Counsel has won three straight over DeMatha for the first time in series history, and the game fittingly featured Good Counsel scoring in unexpected ways.
Backup running back Leo Ekwoge ran for Good Counsel’s second touchdown shortly after O’Daniel left the game, but Fuller’s return stole the show.
Fuller caught the ball — which, according to DeMatha coach Elijah Brooks was supposed to be kicked out of bounds — and, as designed, ran left. But Fuller noticed a crease, cut back and raced up the right sideline to score. It was the type of play he said he’d never made in a game before, which his teammates realized.
“Everybody knows that,” Fuller said. “I’m just the type to run forward, not really cut back and make big cuts like that.”
Fuller wouldn’t declare Good Counsel — ranked No. 1 in the Maryland state poll — the best team in the state after beating No. 2 Gilman, and he’s not doing it now after beating No. 3 DeMatha.
“We definitely have the potential, but you can’t really talk until after the season,” Fuller said. “The streak that we’re on right now, we definitely have a good chance.”
Perhaps, he has good reason to wait.
“We got them at the end, but I’m almost positive they’ll see us back in the championship,” Fuller said.
For Brooks, who put a whole lot into this game, a potential Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoff rematch keeps him going.
“Hopefully we do what we can to make it to the championship,” Brooks said. “And hopefully, we win the one that counts.”
Good Counsel 13, DeMatha 10
DeMatha (5-1) 3 0 0 7 — 10
Good Counsel (5-1) 7 6 0 0 — 13
GC — Kendall Fuller 75 punt return (Bryan Strittmatter kick)
D — Siegfried Schmidt 36 field goal
GC — Leo Ekwoge 16 run (kick failed)
D — Darryl Turner 42 pass from John Lovett (Siegfried Schmidt kick)
DeMatha — Mark Allen 19-65; Taiwan Deal 2-6; Chris Jones 1-(-1); Brian Baker 1-(-3).
Good Counsel — Leo Ekwoge 13-45; Dorian O'Daniel 8-30; Chris Dawson 4-15; Kendall Fuller 3-14; Brendan Marshall 4-(-7).
DeMatha — John Lovett 14-28-201-2.
Good Counsel — Brendan Marshall 6-15-35-0.
DeMatha — Chris Jones 6-96; Cameron Phillips 3-45; Darryl Turner 1-42; Jarriel Jordan Jr. 1-12; Spencer Kleinrichert 1-7; Mark Allen 2-(-1).
Good Counsel — C.J. Carroll 4-22; Kendall Fuller 1-9; Dorian O'Daniel 1-4.