Senior RB Taiwan Deal and DeMatha will face their tough competition and high expectations head on this season (Doug Kapustin/The Washington Post).

John Lovett’s first month as DeMatha‘s quarterback was a whirlwind, to say the least. After transferring from St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) last August, Lovett had just a few weeks to grasp the Stags’ offense and build the trust of his teammates as their new leader under center.

His first start exceeded expectations, as he threw for 214 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions in a rout of Hillside (N.C.) to open the season. But less than a week later, the celebration turned to chaos as five of Lovett’s new teammates were kicked off the team for hiring prostitutes during the trip to North Carolina.

The Stags rebounded to reach their ninth Washington Catholic Athletic Conference final in the last 10 years before falling to Good Counsel and Lovett shined as the starter, amassing 2,156 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. But now with a year of experience under his belt and on the heels of an impressive offseason, the quarterback finally feels at ease.

“I feel way more comfortable going into this year,” Lovett said. “It’s great that they believed in me enough to throw me in the fire last year, but this year with all the skill players coming back as seniors and the chemistry we’ve built, we’re really excited for this season.”

Much of the anticipation stems from the wealth of experienced talent possessed by the Stags. According to, DeMatha boasts nine three-star recruits, four of which have committed to Bowl Championship Series programs.

In turn, several national preseason polls have ranked the Stags as the top team in the D.C. metro area, further building the intrigue for their season opener against Virginia power Phoebus and a Sept. 27 matchup with WCAC rival Good Counsel. Still, it’s business as usual for the Lovett and Stags.

“As far as expectations and rankings, we’ve blocked that out,” Lovett said. “Our expectations every year are to go undefeated and win the WCAC, so just because we’ve got more attention and media coming our way doesn’t change things.”

Joining Lovett in the strive to meet the Stags’ goals are offensive playmakers Taiwan Deal and Cameron Phillips. Deal, a Wisconsin recruit, rushed for 955 yards and 21 touchdowns behind a physical, downhill style of play while Penn State recruit Mark Allen provides a speedy complement at running back. Meantime, Phillips’ athleticism makes the Virginia Tech commit a tough matchup as a wideout.

Opening up space for DeMatha is imposing offensive lineman Brock Ruble, a 6-foot-8, 321-pounder who’s considering offers from Maryland, Florida State, N.C. State, Ohio State and Tennessee.

“I think we can do a lot offensively,” Stags Coach Elijah Brooks said. “John is so intelligent and we can put the game on his shoulders and run pass options from the line of scrimmage, and we have a lot of talented skill players around him.”

N.C. State commit Deonte Holden is the anchor of the defensive line, bringing an explosive skillset off the edges with his 6-foot-5 frame and high motor. Just behind him is All-Met linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, who can rack up tackles and is the team’s strongest player among nine returning starters on defense.

“We have an opportunity to be one of the best teams to come through DeMatha, but we’ve got to take it one game at a time and stay focused and grounded as a team,” Brooks said. “I think our guys understand we can’t fall into any pitfalls. The road ahead is tough but we’re excited about the possibilities of this season.”

Previously: Oakton | Lake Braddock | Briar Woods | Anacostia | H.D. Woodson | Dunbar | Good Counsel

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.