But DeMatha has made its living with consistent midlength gains and a running game that never goes without fresh legs.
After losing starter Marshawn Lloyd the first week of the season with a broken wrist, Coach Elijah Brooks filled his backfield with juniors Myles Miree, Dominic Logan-Nealy and Jaylen Johnson. The three have kept the offense on schedule, senior quarterback Ty Lenhart said, behind an offensive line that has grown considerably since a Week 1 loss to national power Bishop Gorman (Nev.).
In the four games since, the Stags are averaging 184 yards on the ground.
“You can see it in our drives,” Lenhart said. “We grind out games and work through these drives. That’s how this offense has grown.”
DeMatha’s offense — which has always embraced a pro-style, four-yard-chunk mentality — doesn’t have to be flashy for excitement’s sake or to build a national reputation. The Stags are shooting for a fifth straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title, and are the odds-on favorite to win the game again.
The small wins at the line of scrimmage, the downfield blocks from receivers, the 12-yard completions to the tight end on play-action do the talking. They’re simple plays that wear down opponents. Brooks hopes enough of them will wear down a Gonzaga defense that has been the pleasant surprise so far.
“Let’s do what they can’t stop,” Lenhart said. “That’s what’s going to win us a championship.”
Here are some notes from our high school football beat reporters from around the region.
» Chesapeake gets low, wins four straight
As Chesapeake watched film of its season-opener, reliving the horrors of a 30-point loss to Towson, an alarming pattern came into focus: The Cougars weren’t playing football low enough to the ground. They weren’t blocking well, and they weren’t tackling well.
So in practice the following week, Chesapeake’s coaching staff brought out its set of Shadowman tackling dummies, tools that can be dragged around to create the illusion of a scampering runner. The design calls for tacklers to execute hits to the dummy’s lower half.
“We’ve been doing that every day, and it’s a big part of where we’re at,” said Cougars Coach Rob Elliott, whose team has gone 4-0 since the Towson loss.
The return to basics proved to be a turning point for Chesapeake. The team beat Severna Park by 14 points in Week 2, starting a winning streak that’ll be put on the line Friday against South River (3-2).
Perhaps as important as blocking and tackling for the Cougars, Elliott said, is the need to remain healthy: Chesapeake is thin at running back and linebacker. Tony Watkins has stepped up in the running game with Colby McNulty missing several games due to an ankle injury, but with both now healthy, the Cougars feel more confident moving forward.
» MAGRUDER WINS FIRST GAME IN TWO YEARS
Magruder’s game against Northwood last Thursday night featured a few milestones.
The Colonels’ 41-0 win was their first victory in 691 days, dating back to Nov. 6, 2015.
And perhaps more importantly for Coach Ray Fowle as he looks for rising talent and consistency to overcome a winless 2016 season, the quarterback leading the charge scored his first passing and rushing touchdowns at the position.
Junior Rashaud Claggett wasn’t a quarterback before this season. He skipped playing football last year to improve his grades after lining up at wide receiver and cornerback as a freshman on junior varsity in 2015.
Claggett’s first start, a 52-0 loss at Damascus on Sept. 22, extended the Colonels’ woes, but once he crossed the goal line for a rushing touchdown in the first quarter against Northwood, Claggett hoped the streak would end.
He was 9-for-9 passing for 120 yards and added 85 yards on four rushes, providing a spark Magruder hadn’t experienced in almost two years.
“Any time you’re perfect for passing and have two touchdowns throwing and two touchdowns rushing, it’s a heck of a day,” Fowle said. “Hopefully it continues.”
» MADISON GEARS UP FOR REMATCH AGAINST UNDEFEATED WESTFIELD
The Madison Warhawks, especially the juniors and seniors who helped craft an 11-2 season in 2016, have obvious motivation as they prepare for Westfield.
In last year’s Virginia 6A North semifinals, Madison was trailing 14-13 in the third quarter when a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown swung momentum Westfield’s way and propelled it to a 31-13 win.
“Yeah I’ve seen that film countless times,” Madison Coach Justin Counts said. “It’s something we’ll think about this week, but we’re a new team and they’re a new team.”
Both teams are as good as they were last year. While Westfield has started the year 5-0, Madison enters this year’s clash having lost only to Stone Bridge three weeks ago. Counts said a 26-16 win over South County last week showed how good the Warhawks can be.
He pointed to the team’s offensive line as the unit that set the tone last Friday and must do it again this weekend against a physical team.
“They’re big, athletic and very well-coached,” he said of the Bulldogs. “They’re not going to beat themselves, so we can’t do that either.”
» FRIENDSHIP RATCHETS UP DISCIPLINE BEFORE FACING SPALDING
No. 13 Friendship Collegiate heads to Severn to face No. 14 Spalding on Friday with a fresh perspective following a pair of losses to No. 1 DeMatha and The Hun School, New Jersey’s top-ranked team, according to MaxPreps.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Coach Mike Hunter said. “We went up against two very good opponents and it just showed us we’re not where we thought we were.”
According to Hunter, the Knights’ own mental lapses and missed assignments hurt most. Ahead of the matchup with Spalding, Friendship Collegiate (3-2) has been focused on discipline, something Hunter said the Knights will need against a “well-coached” Spalding squad looking to bounce back in its own right.
The Cavaliers (2-2) have dropped two of their last three games to equally tough opponents in No. 9 Good Counsel and McDonogh.
» Week 5 rewind: No. 10 Good Counsel runs over Northwest, 58-21
The NFL is soon to start breaking out the pink gear in celebration of October as breast cancer awareness month. The Washington Post found last year that aside from specifically licensed merchandise bearing the NFL pink ribbon shield logo, pink gear sales usually do not benefit any breast cancer-affiliated causes. That means much of what is worn at the youth level is a fashion statement more than a philanthropic effort — whether athletes and their parents know it or not.