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High school football notebook: Early losses in WCAC make No. 1 debate more interesting

Wise and Florida State-bound safety A.J. Lytton pounded Surrattsville, 57-0, this week. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

This is the third installment of The Washington Post’s high school football notebook series, which will publish twice weekly on Sunday and Thursday with news and analysis from around the region.

In this week’s notebook we cover St. John’s, Gonzaga, Wise, Damascus, DeMatha, DuVal, Northwest, Champe, Howard, Severna Park, South Lakes, West Potomac and H.D. Woodson. 


DeMatha, St. John’s and Gonzaga all have losses. Wise and Damascus do not, and they have not lost a game in two years. How much should that matter in determining the D.C. area’s top teams? A lot, actually.

There’s a significant chance No. 2 Wise and No. 4 Damascus could each run the table en route to state championships this season, the third in a row for each team. They are programs that have proved they can achieve repeated regional dominance and finish games.

This season, the WCAC powers cannot say the same, especially not about finishing games. Both DeMatha and St. John’s had second-half leads in nationally televised matchups against Bishop Gorman (Nev.) and De La Salle (Calif.), respectively. Both teams lost.

Gonzaga’s offense turned five takeaways into 38 points against Gilman (Baltimore) two weeks ago. This week, the Eagles couldn’t find the end zone against Viera (Fla.), losing 21-6 to a team they beat last year in the Sunshine State.

Gonzaga struggles on both sides of the ball in 21-6 loss to Florida powerhouse

Damascus and Wise? They’ve won both their games by a combined 98-17. Wise’s starters only played a quarter and a half against Surrattsville. Damascus ran for 282 yards against Blake.

Comparing public school teams with private schools feels uneven in some ways, as the WCAC programs can offer need-based financial aid to student athletes (read: recruit). They can practice year-round in impressive facilities. Their competition over the first two weeks has likewise been far more impressive than that of Damascus and Wise.

But the talent gap between the WCAC powers and the top two public school teams isn’t huge. Damascus has four Division I-bound offensive linemen. Wise is sending its starting safety to Florida State and has two more wide receivers and a cornerback who are Division I players, and its offensive line is about as big as DeMatha’s.

It’s not time to anoint any team the new king of Washington-area football. But it is worth casting a wider net when considering the question, especially as years-long winning streaks continue, and there is no certainty that the region’s No. 1 team at season’s end will come from the WCAC. DeMatha remains No. 1 in the Post’s latest rankings, but the conference’s early-season losses have opened the door for Damascus and Wise.


The Stags’ will lean on their ground game all season long, Coach Elijah Brooks said after his team’s 28-0 win over Avalon on Friday night, even after losing starting sophomore tailback Marshawn Lloyd in the season opener.

Lloyd broke his left wrist in a loss to Bishop Gorman. Against Avalon, Brooks turned to junior Myles Miree, who had 94 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

“You got to be able to run the ball against any team,” Brooks said. “And both Myles Miree, Seiah Bengurah and even D.J. Bulter came in and ran the ball extremely well. That was very promising.”

Freshman Sieh Bangura also carried nine times for 37 yards and two touchdowns. Here he is on a stretch play for a solid gain.

Look for more of these kinds of runs out of DeMatha with Lloyd out for the year. Bangura gets outside here, but that’s because the Stags devote a tackle and a tight end to sealing the edge, which is a pretty heavy personnel set. Miree and Bangura are smaller than Lloyd but run a bit more behind their pads than Lloyd, who likes to make moves in the open field.


David Dupree’s goal for his senior season is as brash as his running style: The bruiser from DuVal wants to be known as the best running back in Maryland. He got off to a good start Saturday, rushing for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 26-12 win over Northwestern.

“I want to break all of the [state rushing records],” he said. “Rushing touchdowns, rushing yards. … Me and Coach [Carlos Lockwood] talk about it all the time.”

He’ll need a steady diet of touches to do that. Lockwood says he’s at his best running for chunks of five, six and seven yards. Dupree had 23 carries on Saturday.

He broke from that routine in one of his three touchdowns, a 43-yard fourth-quarter burst to put the finishing touches on a successful first week.


He’s the guy who did this in the scrimmage a few weeks ago:

He was all over the field Friday as Northwest pieced together an impressive, 53-36 victory at Wootton, so much so that all of his contributions would take too long to list.

Some of the highlights: Farri took a kickoff return 95 yards to the house, toted the ball 15 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns, reeled in a 10-yard touchdown grab, snagged an interception on defense and kicked PATs to boot.

“He had a great offseason,” Coach Mike Neubeiser said. “He had a great year last year, rushed for over 1,000 yards, and I think he’s going to have a big year after the offseason he put in.”


Before a workout last spring, Champe Coach Jason Dawson gathered his team to announce the upcoming schedule. With realignment from Class 4 to 5, the Knights expected to hear the names of new competition from within Loudoun County.

The surprise was in the nonconference schedule. For Week 2, Dawson said Centreville.

“We knew Coach had emailed Westfield and Centreville to see if they’d schedule us, but we didn’t know if schools like that would play us. Those are two of the top programs around. Everybody knows them,” senior running back Carl Garmon III said. “When we heard Centreville on the schedule, that was really exciting for us because we wanted to take on that challenge and show that we belong.”

Champe belongs. The Knights beat the 2013 6A state champions, 28-21. After posting 204 yards and five touchdowns against O’Connell last week, Garmon carried the ball 41 times for 288 yards and four touchdowns on Friday night.

Here’s a lengthy scoring run that helped put the game away.


Howard Coach Ross Hannon made a point in the offseason of talking up the importance of the Lions’ 4-4 defensive scheme. Howard will use four down linemen and four linebackers in most sets.

The Lions’ linebackers, led by Ryan Kearney and Ben Stephanos, are so long and athletic, they can easily play pass defense, especially if Howard sits back in zone coverage. The whole scheme simplifies things a lot more than what other teams might run on defense, because coaches don’t have to sub players in and out constantly to match an offense’s alignment.

And Friday in a 34-0 trouncing of rival Glenelg, the Lions’ performance sang the praises of the 4-4 scheme. In short, it means Howard can put eight players on the field the size of a heavy safety, the kind of player who can tackle a runner in space, shed a block, play pass defense or rush the quarterback. The Lions held Glenelg’s famed running game to 120 total yards and star tailback Wande Owens to 44 yards on 18 carries.

“I thought we played a great defensive scheme,” Hannon said. “You’re asking kids to lay it down for their teammates because the defensive tackles and the defensive ends aren’t making tackles but they’re getting penetration.”


It’s not just that Severna Park hadn’t earned a Week 1 victory since 2012. The Falcons had repeatedly gotten clobbered to open the season, the optimism and excitement accompanying a new campaign crushed barely after it began.

So when junior quarterback Garrett Edwards found Josh Coffman in single coverage down the left sideline late in the fourth quarter and Coffman chugged all the way to the end zone to complete the 91-yard touchdown catch and clinch a marathon 49-48 win over North County on Friday, it felt like a new era for Severna Park football.

“We have a lot of confidence going into Chesapeake,” said Edwards, who threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two more scores in his first varsity start. “We’re not stepping off the gas.”


Four-year starter Spencer Alston has been the focal point of the No. 8 South Lakes’ offense that has put up 42 points in both of its games. First he torched W.T. Woodson, running the ball for 77 yards on 10 carries and catching four passes for 102 yards. On Friday, Falls Church got more of the same. Alston had two carries for 49 yards and caught four passes for 145 yards.

“He played the best I’ve ever seen him play,” Taylor said of Alston’s performance against Falls Church. “He worked hard in the weight room this summer, so now that combination of strength and speed is better than ever.”


Remember those two big rules changes the National Federation of State High School Associations made in the offseason? One of them banned blindside blocks, something pretty much everyone can agree on.

The other banned “pop-up” onside kicks, or kicks in which “the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, the ball strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee,” the rule states.

Something like this is now illegal:

That change was relatively controversial, because it fundamentally alters the way a losing team can try to regain the ball for a last-second score. Our first example of that impact came in the final moments of West Potomac’s 28-26 win over Lake Braddock.

The Bruins lined up for an onside kick, but now, according to the new rule, if the ball doesn’t bounce at least twice before reaching eye level, it’s a five-yard penalty and West Potomac would get the ball.

So on Friday, Lake Braddock was forced into more of a squib kick. It sputtered off to the left side of the field and landed safely in the arms of a West Potomac player, giving the Wolverines their first victory over Lake Braddock since 2007.


Coming off five consecutive D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championships, H.D. Woodson Coach Greg Fuller decided to take the Warriors on the road for their first couple of games.

No. 10 H.D. Woodson faced Haverford in Pennsylvania and came home with a resounding 44-12 victory on Saturday.

“The competition is very good,” said Fuller, who will take the team to face Ohio powerhouse St. Edward on Saturday. “That’s what we need to measure ourselves.”

Fuller said he was pleased with the play of both the running and receiving game, with Mychale Salahuddin and Noah Boykin leading the way, along with the quarterbacking of Khalil Wright. The coach will rely on that trio of seniors along with defensive tackle Kaylon Oliver and defensive back Vincent Flythe III for veteran leadership throughout the season.


» Football or basketball? In age of CTE and AAU, it’s a tough call for players, parents

» ‘The leading edge of a much larger iceberg’: New Jersey high school disbands football team

» Versatile Landon defender Jalen Williams has a UNC offer, and more are likely on the way

» Spread it out, speed it up: High school offenses set the tone for all levels of football

» Week 1 rewind: Chopticon sophomore Dominic Crampton leads 35-32 win over No. 17 Oxon Hill

» Week 1 rewind: Gonzaga struggles on both sides of ball in 21-6 loss to Florida powerhouse

» Week 1 rewind: Westfield absorbs South County’s big plays and wins in overtime on blocked extra point


Remember Kasim Hill? The St. John’s quarterback who threw for 1,188 yards and ran for 606 more as a senior last year. Well, he anchored Maryland down the stretch for a huge road win at No. 23 Texas on Saturday.

Hill came in cold in relief of injured starter Tyrrell Pigrome and was 3-for-3 passing for 44 yards, and ran for 14 yards and a game-clinching touchdown.

He was pretty good in high school, too. Check out his game tape.

Dillon Mullan, Michael Errigo, Joshua Needelman and Dan Roth contributed to this report.