While the rest of his DeMatha teammates descended upon the cafeteria Friday afternoon to socialize over lunch, senior Jamal Robinson took his food down the hallway to the football coaches’ office. There, he went over film, studying the nuances of an offense that he was familiar with but hadn’t run as a quarterback in almost two years.
In that time, Robinson had become one of the team’s top defensive backs, making DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks’s selection of Robinson to fill in for injured starter John Lovett (concussion) both exciting and nerve-wracking for the clash with No. 8 Gonzaga.
By night’s end, Robinson had put together the stat line and displayed the resolve of a veteran, rallying the top-ranked Stags from a halftime deficit for a 31-21 victory at Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.
With the win, DeMatha clinched the top seed in the upcoming Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs.
“I wouldn’t say I felt rusty or anything, but I was a little bit nervous,” Robinson said. “Doing things like extra film session and chalk talk with coaches all week helped prepare me, and having a big line and big running backs around me made things a lot easier for me.”
Robinson’s ability to open up the field with a variety of mid-range passes and a few bombs downfield bought the time necessary for DeMatha’s rushers to get going after a slow first half.
Gonzaga (5-3, 2-1 WCAC), which was also without starting quarterback Nick Johns (shoulder), kept the Stags’ defense off-balance early with several different looks. Quarterbacks Matt Mulligan and James Orfini traded turns under center while running back Reggie Corbin took a few snaps in the Wildcat formation. Mulligan’s first pass resulted in a tremendous 38-yard touchdown catch by Jabari Greenwood that put the Eagles up 14-0 late in the first quarter.
Shortly thereafter, Robinson (11 for 20 for 176 yards and a touchdown) began to warm up, connecting with several receivers along the sideline before finding Cameron Phillips (six catches for 111 yards) on a 51-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 21-14 at the half. Robinson said the Stags (7-1, 4-0 in WCAC) refused to panic during halftime.
“Jamal is as competitive as they come, and we knew he had it in him to lead this team,” Brooks said.
DeMatha’s defense buckled down in the second half, recording three sacks and holding Gonzaga to just 51 yards. Meantime, the offense ran off 17 unanswered points behind the rushing of Taiwan Deal, Lorenzo Harrison and Mark Allen, who combined for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
“I never imagined that my senior night would play out like this, with me back at quarterback,” Robinson said. “But I am glad it turned out this way and we were able to pull together for a great win.”