One question lightened the mood around DeMatha football coach Bill McGregor following his team's 23-10 loss to Paul VI Catholic in Saturday's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game at RFK Stadium.

McGregor was asked what he thought of the performance of several of the Stags' young players in the game.

"I feel sorry for the seniors who played their final game here today," McGregor said. "But I also know DeMatha is going to have another outstanding team next year."

McGregor can expect several key members from this season's team--which finished 10-1-1--back next season. Junior running back Anthony Riley may be the most prominent. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, including 60 yards on 16 carries against Paul VI. Saturday's leading rusher for DeMatha was sophomore running back Elijah Brooks, who finished with a team-high 80 yards on five carries, including a 51-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter that tied the game at 7.

Junior quarterback Brian Jones completed 7 of 21 passes for 44 yards. Junior wide receiver Dominique Steward caught two passes for 13 yards and threw a 30-yard pass to senior Dennard Wilson. In all, four players who started on offense (including offensive linemen Kyle Lehman and Jimmy Key) and three who started on defense against Paul VI are expected to return.

McGregor wanted to make sure they left RFK with vivid memories of the loss. As the game ended, DeMatha's players stood within a few yards of the joyous Paul VI team as the Panthers received the WCAC title trophy. Several DeMatha players left the field in tears.

"I wanted the kids to remember how this feels," McGregor said. "We want to come back here next year. We do not want this feeling again."

It was a difficult ending to another successful season for DeMatha. The Stags advanced to the WCAC title game for the eighth time in nine years. They won the WCAC regular season title and extended their unbeaten streak to 24 games before the title game loss.

A majority of the Stags' 25 seniors seem to have a good shot of playing in college--the Stags have had at least 10 seniors receive Division I scholarships in eight of the past nine seasons.

"I do not know what happened [against Paul VI]," DeMatha senior place kicker Scott Wolfe-King said. "But I just wish the juniors on this team good luck next year and I hope they are able to come back here next year and win it."