Football: No. 17 DeMatha beats St. John’s, 13-7

It was during spring workouts in the gym that the idea was hatched. Would sophomore Taiwan Deal, who played tight end and defensive end on the DeMatha freshman football team last season, be willing to switch positions and play running back?

“Doing sprints and agility drills, he was beating a lot of skill players,” Stags first-year Coach Elijah Brooks said. “So we asked, ‘Have you played running back before?’ Because we were looking for someone with size.”

Deal, listed at 6 feet 2 and 235 pounds, had no problem with the change. And while he remains somewhat raw, he continues to show glimpses of talent. He was caught from behind after a 53-yard run in the third quarter on Saturday at St. John’s, but showed plenty of power on a 26-yard touchdown run off-tackle with four minutes left that lifted 17th-ranked DeMatha to a 13-7 victory in a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference game in Northwest Washington.

Sophomore Mark Allen scored on a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play after halftime and Deal finished with a season-high 148 yards on 14 carries as the Stags (4-2, 2-1) avoided losing to the Cadets for the first time since 1994. It has been a transitional year for DeMatha, with Brooks taking over for longtime coach Bill McGregor and utilizing a lineup filled with younger, less experienced players.

Among that group is Deal, who has shared the load at tailback with Allen after senior Charlie Jordan sustained a foot injury.

A 5-7, 185-pound sophomore, Allen burst up the middle and weaved his way for the game- tying score. After St. John’s (4-3, 3-1) punted, Deal took a handoff up the middle on the next play and seemed on his way to a touchdown when St. John’s defensive back Billy Webb tackled him.

“That’s the worst, getting caught from behind,” said Brooks, a former running back. “All our backs know if they get caught from behind, they’re going to hear about it on Monday.”

A pair of sacks by safety Eric Johnson gave DeMatha the ball midway through the fourth quarter and four plays later, Deal took a handoff to the right and shed would-be tacklers as he bounded to the end zone.

“I was thinking about” getting caught from behind earlier, Deal said. “I told myself I just had to put one in the end zone. I just had to do it.”

With quarterback Ben Onett sidelined by an ankle injury, backup Will Ulmer drove St. John’s to the DeMatha 9-yard line before a pass on the game’s final play was intercepted in the end zone by Brian Charles.

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