With each passing season, the local private school football scene brings an uncommon intrigue. Out-of-conference games — some against national powers — are followed by the renewal of regular-season rivalries before these same rivals vie for coveted league titles.
The 2013 campaign is no different, as the slate features two games televised on ESPN’s family of networks, a handful of nationally ranked opponents with highly touted recruits and several rematches of last year’s conference title games. With the season one week from kickoff, here’s a primer for the top 10 games to watch:
10. DeMatha vs. St. Joseph Regional (N.J.) (at Keane University), Sept. 7, 4:30 p.m.
In its third and final national matchup of the season, DeMatha takes on a St. Joseph squad that is a two-time defending champ in New Jersey. Facing such tough competition should serve as a good primer before the Stags open Washington Catholic Conference play two weeks later against St. John’s, followed by Good Counsel.
9. Gonzaga at Charlotte Catholic, Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m.
Gonzaga Coach Aaron Brady made a point to schedule three strong national opponents this fall, saying it’s the only way to prepare for physical, talented rivals like DeMatha and Good Counsel. In this contest, the Eagles’ defense will be put to the test in facing senior running back and Notre Dame recruit Elijah Hood. But Gonzaga has several high-profile players of its own in Georgia Tech commit Miles Taylor and Ohio recruit Robbie Walker.
8. Landon at St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, Oct. 19, 2 p.m.
Last year’s contest came down to a last-minute field goal by Landon and this season’s matchup has the same down-to-the-wire potential. Wide receiver Sam Gallahan will lead St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes while linebacker Jack Falk anchors a Landon squad looking to defend its IAC title.
7. McNamara at O’Connell, Nov. 2, 2 p.m
Optimism surrounds both of these teams entering the fall. McNamara is now coached by former NFL player Keith Goganious, who looks to use his wisdom in molding highly touted offensive lineman Damian Prince and the Mustangs into a dark-horse WCAC contender. As for O’Connell, the Knights are coming off a season that saw them improve by four wins under new coach Del Smith. Boston College commit Kamrin Moore, the school’s first Football Bowl Subdivision recruit since 2010, will anchor the Knights in the backfield and secondary.
6. Gonzaga at DeMatha, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.
Before beating Gonzaga in last year’s WCAC semifinals, DeMatha had lost four straight games to the Eagles. The assumption by some is that the WCAC title will come down to DeMatha, which is once again loaded with FBS talent, and four-time defending champ Good Counsel. This contest serves as Gonzaga’s chance to prove otherwise.
5. Potomac School at Flint Hill, Oct. 19, 3 p.m.
Last November saw these two teams square off for the MAC title for the third straight season, but unlike the prior two years, Flint Hill hoisted the trophy. Huskies Coach Tom Verbanic looks to repeat this success in his second season but will be without graduated running back Connor Chess and QB Stevie Peterson. Meantime, the Panthers welcome back talented senior rusher Jalen Broome.
4. Bullis at Landon, Oct. 26, 2 p.m.
The last two IAC champions face off in a matchup that is expected to be critical in deciding this year’s conference champ. The Bulldogs welcome back 6-foot-4, 275-pound offensive tackle Justin Herron to clear holes for explosive rusher Devonte Williams (785 yards, 11 touchdowns), while Jamal Francois leads Landon’s run-heavy offense.
3. Good Counsel vs. Gilman (at Towson), Aug. 23, 8:30 p.m.
For the second straight year, Good Counsel will kick off its season on the road against a national power on ESPN (News). This contest will bring a familiar foe in Gilman, which the Falcons held off for a 20-19 victory last season, sparking an 11-game win streak. Gilman’s defense features Penn State commit and senior defensive back Troy Vincent, Jr. and linebacker Melvin Keihn. In turn, the Good Counsel offensive line, led by Sam Mustipher, will need to be extra strong in creating time in the pocket for new quarterback Bryan Strittmatter.
Defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam is expected to announce his college commitment before kickoff. His list is down to Maryland, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Notre Dame and North Carolina.
2. Gonzaga vs. St. John’s (at Blair), Nov. 2, 3 p.m.
If history is any indicator, this deeply rooted rivalry is in store for another close contest. Five of the last six games in the series have been decided by seven points or less with Gonzaga winning the last two matchups. Quarterback and Maryland commit Will Ulmer and defensive back Omar Truitt, an Iowa recruit, hope to reverse the Cadets’ recent fortune in a series that stretches back to 1918.
1. Good Counsel at DeMatha, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.
Before Good Counsel began its four-year reign as WCAC champs, DeMatha had reeled off six straight titles. What’s more, the last WCAC team to beat Good Counsel was DeMatha in 2011. The Stags enter as the preseason favorite with nine returning starters on defense and five FBS commits. Of course, Good Counsel is no slouch with plenty of talent on its offensive and defensive lines.
Did we miss a key matchup? Let us know in the comments below.