After all the team pictures, all the shouts of joys, all the friendly slaps on the head had concluded following DeMatha’s 31-10 victory over St. John’s in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title game on Saturday, Taiwan Deal did the honors of carrying the trophy to the locker room.
As Deal made the walk across Byrd Stadium, he shot a glance Coach Elijah Brooks, still drenched from the Gatorade bath he received in the game’s final seconds. He then gazed at the large gathering of DeMatha fans, still clapping and screaming over the team’s triumph.
The tears and empty emotions that characterized the three previous years of Deal’s football career — twice ending in title game losses to Good Counsel — faded in the wake of Saturday’s victory.
On Saturday, Deal and his teammates finally etched their names on the right side of history.
“It’s a great feeling to finally win the championship and get this trophy back,” Deal said. “It’s like Coach Brooks told us, we wanted to play to be remembered for what we did, not forgotten because of what we couldn’t do.”
In winning their first WCAC title since 2008, the top-ranked Stags (11-1) stayed true to their identity this season, establishing a strong rushing attack that ultimately wore down the stingy St. John’s defense. Deal rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown while sophomore Lorenzo Harrison chipped in 114 yards on the ground to anchor a ground game that racked up 275 yards on 49 carries.
DeMatha’s success running the ball helped reverse what occurred in the teams’ first meeting, when the No. 16 Cadets (9-3) sacked quarterback John Lovett five times. On Saturday, Lovett proved efficient, completing touchdown passes to Chris Jones and Cameron Phillips that put DeMatha ahead 14-0.
On the second score, Lovett appeared to be throwing the ball away after he was flushed out of the pocket. But Phillips swooped in to snag the ball in the corner of the end zone for a 19-yard score.
“It was a busted play where the running back went the wrong way,” said Lovett, who completed seven of nine passes for 108 yards. “But in practice, me and Cam work on scramble drills where I buy as much time as possible and he knows to keep running with me so he can get to the throw.”
St. John’s, which was making its first title game appearance since 1991, responded with an interception and a field goal to cut the halftime deficit to 14-3.
But the Cadets’ chances at a comeback were greatly diminished thanks to DeMatha’s opening drive of the second half.
Behind powerful runs by Deal and shifty escapes by Harrison, the Stags put together a 17-play, 78-yard drive that ate up 10 minutes 23 seconds.
After stopping St. John’s on fourth down on the ensuing drive, Lovett punctuated another lengthy, run-fueled drive by turning a bootleg play into a five-yard touchdown and a 24-3 cushion for the Stags.