No. 5 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) and Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) are the only undefeated teams left in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, so there’s plenty at stake in Friday night’s game at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in the shadows of FedEx Field — even if the game wasn’t on ESPN2.
The last time Gonzaga (6-0) defeated the Stags (6-0) was in 2012, when the Eagles topped DeMatha for the fourth consecutive time. DeMatha, the two-time defending WCAC champion, has won the past fourth meetings despite having to come from behind in the past three.
The Stags have a solid backfield with Maryland commit Lorenzo Harrison and juniors Khory Pruill and Anthony McFarland, but they’re also capable of throwing the ball behind junior quarterback Beau English. The team’s defense, led by senior linebacker Shane Simmons, a Penn State commit, has been particularly effective against the run.
“Offensively, we have to maintain a solid running game and be able to go over the top and take our shots in the passing game when we can,” DeMatha coach Elijah Brooks said.
“They’re good everywhere,” Gonzaga coach Randy Trivers said. “They have fantastic athletes on both sides of the ball. They’ve got some guys on the perimeter who are dangerous play-makers. They have an offensive line that is big and powerful. You get caught up and try to focus on one or two things and you’re going to have trouble with them.”
DeMatha is playing an ambitious schedule and has wins against out-of-state powers Miami Central (Miami, Fla.), No. 10 American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) and LaSalle Prep (Wyndmoor, Pa.). The Stags have also been tested within the conference, coming from behind to defeat Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) 52-47 last week as Harrison ran for three touchdowns and English threw three touchdown passes.
“The two things that almost hurt us last game were turnovers and penalties,” Brooks said. “We gave them multiple opportunities on third and fourth down. We have to be able to execute on both sides of the ball. If not, it’s going to be a long day for us.”
Gonzaga returned only two starters on offense, but has quickly adjusted.
“To be honest with you, they haven’t surprised me,” Trivers said. “One thing about the kids at Gonzaga. They are high-character young men. The culture at the school and environment fosters leadership and camaraderie. Those are the things that make for good players and good football teams. We graduated a lot of seniors. In my eyes, I see these kids every day. It doesn’t surprise me because I know their character.”
The Eagles have been led by junior running back Tyree Randolph, who ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago in a 34-24 defeat of Bishop McNamara.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us just because they execute so well offensively and defensively,” Brooks said. “From a defensive standpoint, we’re going to have to limit their No. 1 player, Tyree Randolph. He’s an explosive back who makes teams pay once he gets going.”