In this week’s notebook, we cover St. John’s, River Hill, Centreville, Madison, Dominion, Oxon Hill, H.D. Woodson and Theodore Roosevelt.
THE SNAP COUNT: ST. JOHN’S RAN THE TABLE IN THE WASHINGTON CATHOLIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE REGULAR SEASON. A CONFERENCE TITLE COULD SIGNAL THE START OF A CHANGING LANDSCAPE IN THE D.C. AREA’S TOP FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
Cadets Coach Joe Casamento reminded his players after a drubbing of Gonzaga on Saturday what they have left to accomplish.
This St. John’s team is the first in 23 years to beat rival DeMatha. It’s the first to go unbeaten in regular season conference play in decades, too.
This week, it hosts No. 4 seed DeMatha in the first round of the league’s playoffs, meaning it has a chance to beat the Stags twice in the same season. Coaches can’t remember how many years it has been since that happened.
To top it all off, St. John’s is the front-runner to win a conference title for the first time in the WCAC’s modern history. The last time the Cadets won the league, in 1989, the WCAC was known simply as the Metro Conference.
The message behind such a string of accomplishments has been a drive to reshape the league’s football power structure, long dominated by DeMatha and Good Counsel. At least one of the teams has appeared in the championship game each of the past 20 years. Ten of those years, they played each other.
But St. John’s didn’t just beat both teams in 2017. It dominated. The Cadets outscored the WCAC’s other playoff teams 101-45.
DeMatha has shuffled through two starting quarterbacks and endured its first three-game losing streak in 23 years. Good Counsel, the league’s surprise No. 2 seed, welcomed first-year Coach Andy Stefanelli with a pair of early season losses. This was the year for St. John’s, players and coaches said, behind a highly touted senior class bolstered by transfer quarterback Kevin Doyle.
And now the Cadets are two wins from turning that promise into reality, Casamento said after a 32-14 win against Gonzaga on Saturday. It’s not just a championship; it’s a new era.
“This is what we’ve been dreaming about,” he said.
Here are the other top high school football stories in the Washington, D.C. area:
» RIVER HILL FEELS SLIGHTED, READY FOR RUN IN MARYLAND 2A
In the four seasons since River Hill last won a state championship, Coach Brian Van Deusen said the Hawks did well just to make the playoffs.
This year, though, he said his team has similar dedication to his title-winning squads in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012, and he expects “a much deeper run.”
After all, the Hawks, who moved from 3A to 2A this season, just finished their first undefeated season since their most recent — and Howard County’s most recent — state title.
“This group has probably been a little overlooked,” Van Deusen said. “It might not be the flashiest group, but it’s a solid group.”
After sharing the county championship with Howard, the No. 2 seed in 4A North, the Hawks occupy the top seed in 2A South. On Friday, they’ll host Glenelg, which River Hill beat, 20-0, two weeks ago but lost to by 31 points in the 3A East region championship last year.
Should the Hawks prevail in their region, which also includes Westlake and Thomas Stone, they could have to contend with two-time defending state champion Damascus (10-0) or Walkersville (10-0) from 2A West.
» WE NEED A REMATCH: CENTREVILLE AND MADISON WILL MEET FOR SECOND WEEK IN A ROW
The premier matchup of the Virginia 6D region’s first round just happened Friday night: Centreville (8-2) vs. Madison (7-3). The teams faced off to finish the regular season and will have an immediate rematch to open the playoffs. Both teams knew heading in that a rematch was possible and that they were essentially playing to determine home-field advantage. After a 31-7 Centreville win, Wildcats Coach Chris Haddock was encouraged by his team’s muted reaction.
“They knew not to celebrate that one too much because we’d be right back in it next week,” Haddock said. “And we told them, ‘If you think this is going to be easy, you’re crazy.’ ”
Haddock said once the Wildcats built a lead Friday, they decided to hold back some strategy and plays for the rematch. He believes the Warhawks probably did the same thing. But this week, when it’s win or go home, that won’t happen again.
“It’s the playoffs, and every team is going to throw the kitchen sink at you every week,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we have to do to play another week.”
» NEXT-MAN-UP MENTALITY HAS DOMINION BACK IN THE PLAYOFFS
Last year, Dominion reached the state semifinals thanks to five seniors who are now playing college football. Without those core contributors but with the same high expectations, the Titans looked poised to repeat as Dulles District champion through the first six weeks.
Then senior quarterback Thomas Jarman tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a loss to Woodgrove that dropped Dominion to 4-3. The next morning, offensive coordinator Robert Holland made a call to save the season.
“He told me that I had to play quarterback,” sophomore Trey Hayes said. “I was surprised. I was nervous. I hadn’t played quarterback since eighth-grade little league. But our whole program has that next-man-up mentality. No matter who graduates or who gets hurt, Dominion plays with a lot of heart.”
Hayes guided the Titans to wins in their final three games to secure a playoff spot. He played wide receiver on the freshman team and during the first five varsity games this season but makes up for a lack of experience with athleticism.
The 5-foot-9 sophomore can dunk a basketball and dance around defenses on the football field. In his second start, he threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 61 yards and one touchdown as Dominion (7-3) erased a 28-14 third-quarter deficit for a 41-31 win over Loudoun Valley.
On Friday night, the Titans, who are the fifth seed in the Virginia 4C Region, visit fourth seed Sherando in Frederick County. Sixth seed Loudoun County (7-3) is also representing the Dulles District in the region; it will visit third seed Kettle Run in Fauquier County.
» CAN OXON HILL GET REVENGE FOR ITS WEEK 1 LOSS TO CHOPTICON?
Oxon Hill spent plenty of time over the summer watching film of Chopticon in anticipation of Sept. 2., but the Braves shocked the Clippers time and time again. There was the wraparound draw, the onside kick and the clutch play of backup quarterback Dominic Crampton.
Coach Craig Jefferies’s team lost that season opener, 35-32, but the Clippers didn’t forget. The team gets a chance for revenge Friday night, when they go on the road to challenge the Braves in the Maryland 3A South region semifinals.
“They beat us, and we thought it was an evenly matched game,” Jefferies said. “Gives the guys a little motivation, knowing how close we came to beating them the first time.”
The Clippers believe this time will be different. The team endured a tough stretch toward the end of the season, losing three games in four weeks, but that came without quarterback DaJuan Rollins. The senior is now healthy and ready to lead No. 3 seed Oxon Hill against No. 2 Chopticon.
On the other side of the region, No. 1 Northern hosts No. 4 Potomac (Md.). Northern finished 9-1, its lone loss coming against North Point two weeks ago. Potomac enters the playoffs coming off losses to Wise and Eleanor Roosevelt.
» H.D. WOODSON, ROOSEVELT ARE TOP SEEDS IN DCIAA STARS AND STRIPES DIVISIONS
After closing the regular season with a resounding victory over Ballou on Thursday, H.D. Woodson linebacker Reggie White was short and to the point regarding what he expected from his team the rest of the way.
“Victories,” the senior said.
H.D. Woodson holds the No. 1 seed in the DCIAA Stars Division and will face No. 4 Eastern in the first round.
The Warriors will look to replicate the success they had during the regular season, when the defense scored a pair of touchdowns and senior running back Mychale Salahuddin turned 10 carries into 155 yards and a touchdown en route to a 32-0 victory.
No. 2 Ballou will face No. 3 Wilson in what figures to be a close matchup after the Knights took a hard-fought, 13-7 victory over Wilson during the regular season.
In the DCIAA Stripes Division, No. 1 Roosevelt will face No. 4 Cardozo in the first round after the Rough Riders closed their regular season with a 44-8 victory over the Clerks. With a repeat as Gravy Bowl champions this year, Roosevelt would move up to the Stars Division.
No. 2 Bell will face No. 3 McKinley. Bell defeated McKinley, 18-0, at the end of September before the Trainers went 4-1 to close the season, their only loss a 6-2 decision against Roosevelt.
» Week 10 rewind: St. John’s beats Gonzaga, clinches WCAC’s top seed » PHOTOS
» Week 10 rewind: North Point not satisfied after undefeated regular season
When the St. John’s defense got tested Saturday against Gonzaga, the Cadets were up to the task. St. John’s sacked Eagles quarterback Caleb Williams nine times. Six of them came in the second half.
Junior defensive end Tre’Mon Morris-Brash, who earned scholarship offers from North Carolina, Maryland and Boston College, had 4.5 sacks.