DeMatha Catholic High School running back Taiwan Deal spent most of the third quarter planted on the bench, his right shoe off and a bag of ice near his foot. Despite spraining his foot late in the first half, he told coaches he would be able to return. DeMatha football coach Elijah Brooks wasn’t so certain, though.
Finally, facing a fourth-and-1 late in the third quarter, DeMatha inserted Deal and ran a power running play with the Wisconsin recruit.
“Everyone knows it’s coming, and we’ve just got to be more dominant than the other team,” Brooks said.
Deal churned ahead, and so has DeMatha.
With Deal’s 3-yard gain helping to run out the clock on Godby (Fla.), DeMatha claimed a 26-9 victory Monday in an ESPN-televised game at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Step 2 of 3: Complete.
DeMatha won its second of three high-profile games against non-area teams to open the season, the first being a 24-20 win against Phoebus (Va.).
“If we were ever going do it, this would be the year to do it,” Brooks said of scheduling three premier non-area opponents. “We have some talented kids, and I was confident that we could get it done.
“There are a lot of teams that are talented. My team is talented. But they’re hard workers, and they really want to be good. And that’s why we did it. Not just because they’re good, because there are a lot of good teams. But they want to take it to the next level, so I want to give them an opportunity to do so.”
Whether it was quarterback John Lovett repeatedly connecting with Cameron Phillips (committed to Virginia Tech), Lorenzo Harrison stepping up at running back with Deal out, defensive end Deonte Holden (committed to North Carolina State) controlling his side of the line, Greyson Torain and Sinmi Demuren intercepting passes or Deal returning to play, DeMatha’s players frequently showed why Brooks holds so much confidence in this group.
And they’re excited about this schedule, too.
Phillips spoke at length about how much faith he has in his teammates, and that’s why he really anticipated the opening slate.
“I was not nervous one bit,” said Phillips, who caught seven passes for 140 yards again Godby, which is a defending Florida Class 5A state champion and features two players committed Florida State. “We’re anxious to show everyone else what we can do.”
The next — and seemingly stiffest — challenge is a trip to New Jersey to play St. Joseph’s Regional, which lost narrowly to Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, 14-10, last season.
Brooks dismissed any talk that Saturday’s game against St. Joseph’s would indicate how his team stacks up with Good Counsel, which has won the past four Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships.
Still, any legitimate WCAC challenger — and DeMatha certainly qualifies — will be measured against Good Counsel, so any potential comparison can’t be completely minimized. After all, DeMatha’s main goal this season is a WCAC title, right?
“Undefeated season,” corrected Phillips, whose team also plays St. Frances in its fourth pre-WCAC contest. “With the schedule, we believe we’re as talented as anyone in the country. So, nothing less than undefeated.”
Phillips’ belief in his team showed especially while discussing Deal’s fourth-down carry. With DeMatha needing just 1 yard, its hobbled running back gained 3 yards. For nearly any team, that’s a resounding victory.
But DeMatha’s goals are bigger, and that’s why Phillips expected a touchdown.
“Six,” Phillips said. “I thought it was six. I’m confident in all our guys.”
DeMatha 26, Godby 9
Godby (0-0) 3 0 6 0 — 9
DeMatha (1-0) 14 6 6 0 — 26
G — Logan Roberts 40 field goal
D — Cameron Phillips 5 from John Lovett (Mac Burke kick)
D — John Lovett 1 run
D — Taiwan Deal 2 run (kick failed)
D — Mac Burke 36 field goal
D — Marc Burke 23 field goal
G — Kenny Young 89 kick return (pass failed)
DeMatha — Taiwan Deal 16-89, Jariel Jordan Jr. 4-35, Mark Allen 9-14, John Lovett 5-1.
DeMatha — John Lovett 10-17-170-1.
DeMatha — Cameron Phillips 7-140, Chris Jones 1-20, De’Andre Kelly 1-10.