WCAC semifinals

Coker leads top-ranked DeMatha past Gonzaga, 35-0

By Robert Klemko
Special to The Gazette
Saturday, November 14, 2009; 7:17 PM

The DeMatha football program earned a shot at a seventh consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title with a 35-0 playoff semifinal win against Gonzaga on Saturday at Bishop McNamara High School.

DeMatha senior running back Marcus Coker turned in 142 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries despite feeling the sting of a pulled groin suffered during the regular season. For the sixth year in a row, the Stags will face Good Counsel in the championship game next Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

In an explosive regular season meeting five weeks ago, DeMatha (11-0) came back from a 21-3 deficit to beat rival Good Counsel 24-21 at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover. It remains Good Counsel's only defeat in 2009.

"Hopefully we've improved since then," said DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor. "There's been a lot of football played since then. Teams never stay the same. They either get worse or get better. I think we've gotten better and they have too. It's going to be a great high school football game."

Saturday's game, on the other hand, was not.

DeMatha started slowly in the first half with touchdowns of 1 and 8 yards by Coker and senior tailback Michael Meriwether. With a 14-0 lead after the half, DeMatha's massive offensive front bullied Gonzaga in the third quarter, as the

Stags rattled off touchdowns on three consecutive drives.

"We felt that we were still in it at halftime but we just couldn't make any big plays," said Gonzaga coach Joe Reyda. "We came out flat in the third quarter. They're a good team and we just got overwhelmed."

DeMatha running backs combined for 229 yards on the ground Saturday, and senior quarterback Daniel Tapscott completed 10 of 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. The Stags defense forced three turnovers, including interceptions by senior Jeff Knox and Patrick Harbeson.

"It's a really good feeling," said senior Arie Kouandjio, DeMatha's 6-foot-5, 306 pound tackle. "To get this win and to be back in the championship. It's something we've been working on for four years."

McGregor said he expects both teams to fiddle with strategy and show some brand new looks in Saturday's title fight.

"We'll make a few adjustments because you never want to show the same things twice," he said. "Some stuff will change but we're basically just going to line up and play."

This story is from The Gazette group of community newspapers published by Post-Newsweek Media, a unit of The Washington Post Co.

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