WCAC final: No. 7 DeMatha vs. No. 1 Good Counsel, Sunday, 2 p.m.

DeMatha junior linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley sustained a season-ending knee injury last year, and the Stags’ coaches and teammates wondered how he and his repaired leg would respond this fall.

They all found out in the season opener.

“My first game, I shed a tear,” Bentley said. “As soon as I stepped on the field and strapped up my helmet, I knew everything was back. I just felt as if I was more ready, because when you’re on the sideline, you just prepare your mind to be up to the part when you get back on the field.”

No opponent gave No. 1 Good Counsel a tougher defensive game this season than No. 7 DeMatha, and no DeMatha player has recorded more tackles this season than Bentley, a key figure in the teams’ rematch at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

Good Counsel (10-1) is aiming for a fourth consecutive title, the first such streak in school history. DeMatha (9-2) is in the final for the 15th time in 16 years after not reaching the championship last year. Good Counsel beat the Stags, 13-10 on Oct. 5 with an equally unyielding defense.

DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks earlier this season referred to Bentley as the best-kept secret on the team, but word is getting out, even though the 6-foot-3, 256-pound junior captain with a team-high 106 tackles has no scholarship offers yet. Bentley also has six sacks, 23 tackles for loss and eight forced fumbles.

In the first game against Good Counsel, Bentley had 11 tackles and two sacks, part of a defensive effort that held the Falcons to a season-low 128 offensive yards. One of Good Counsel’s touchdowns was on a 75-yard punt return by Virginia Tech recruit Kendall Fuller in the first quarter.

Bentley “is an intelligent football player, he’s a leader and he’s blessed with physical tools,” Brooks said. “He can tackle, he can cover and he’s mean.

“He’s definitely surpassed all expectations [coming off the injury]. We thought it would take him a year to get accustomed to playing again, but he bounced back and has done a fantastic job for us.”