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Brothers Kouandjio clear the path for No. 1 Stags
DeMatha duo leads area's dominant offensive line into Saturday's WCAC title game

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 2009

After looking at her massive teenage sons who play football, you might think Georgette Kouandjio has her work cut out when she visits the grocery store.

But then Arie Kouandjio, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound senior who starts at left tackle for top-ranked DeMatha, says he often skips breakfast. So does his younger brother, Cyrus, a 6-7, 295-pound junior who starts at right tackle.

So much for the most important meal of the day for a pair of beefy high schoolers bound for major college football.

As DeMatha (11-0) tries for its seventh consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship on Saturday against sixth-ranked Good Counsel (10-1), the Stags' offensive line has emerged as arguably the most dominant in the region.

Two of its anchors, though, might need a nutritional kick. After passing on breakfast, the Kouandjios' lunch at the Hyattsville school is nothing extraordinary, just whatever is served in the cafeteria, such as a bowl of spaghetti with chicken one day earlier this week.

Don't be fooled, however: Georgette says her boys fare just fine once they return to the family's Beltsville home and plop down in the dining room after a few hours of football practice.

"There is a gene in my family, all the men are big but they eat a lot too," Georgette said. "The thing that makes [Arie and Cyrus] special is they like to eat vegetables. Usually things like broccoli and spinach, children don't eat, but they eat. But don't buy snacks, because otherwise Cyrus and Arie will eat all the snacks. I hide the snacks. At the beginning, this was a problem for me, but I learned it's not a problem because they are always exercising."

It is a delicate balance. As offensive linemen, size is important. Bigger usually is regarded as better. But neither Kouandjio wants to be too big.

"Cyrus and Arie have a big thing about being overweight," DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said. "They don't want to be overweight. They talk about it all the time."

Arie said his eating habits stemmed from his sophomore year, when he was a heavyweight wrestler and needed to be sure to make weight. But he did not return to the mat last year, preferring to focus on offseason training for football. Ask if you can beat him in a footrace and he refers to his 40-yard dash time, "Uh, can you beat a 4.9?"

Between Arie, Cyrus and left guard Shane Johnson, DeMatha has a trio of players toting top scholarship offers. Another lineman, center Jake Geiser, committed to play for Delaware earlier this week. Right guard Peter Collins, a junior, will be a college prospect next year, McGregor said.

Arie is not focusing on recruiting until next week, but it is believed that Alabama and California rank near the top of the several dozen schools to offer him a scholarship, with Maryland, Miami, Tennessee, Notre Dame and New Mexico among those still in consideration.

Cyrus said the latest of his 15 offers came from Rutgers, with Maryland, California, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest already on the board.

"As soon as the season is over, I'm going to start looking around," Cyrus said.

Said McGregor: "Cyrus will have more [offers than Arie], if that is possible. He has things he doesn't even know about right now. I was trying to keep things quiet until after the season when we'll sit down and talk."

The boys' scholarship offers are a pleasant surprise for their father, Jean-Claude, who along with Georgette moved their family from Cameroon 11 years ago so that their children could receive a better education. While their middle two (of four) children have excelled on the football field, Jean-Claude does not understand the sport and has been to just one game: the Stags' 42-21 loss at Good Counsel on Oct. 2, 2008.

"What I know about is soccer; I played soccer all my life," he said. "Football here, I don't know about it. As long as they have good grades, it's fine. Don't get me wrong: I'm not against what they're doing."

Since that loss to Good Counsel, DeMatha has won 18 consecutive games. A big part of the reason has been the Stags' rushing attack. Top running back Marcus Coker (1,583 yards rushing, 20 touchdowns), who has committed to Iowa, receives much of the credit. But when he missed 2 1/2 games because of a pulled groin muscle, the Stags never missed a beat; backups Michael Meriwether and Patrick Harbeson have combined for more than 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Coker is healthy once again and should get plenty of carries Saturday, with a Kouandjio leading the way to the right or to the left. And Georgette Kouandjio plans to be there to see her sons play in a DeMatha uniform for the first time.

"I'm really excited for this," Arie Kouandjio said. "It's my senior year. Everybody has been working toward an undefeated season, and we have it so far. Now, we're trying to cap it off."

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