BALTIMORE — As much as the offseason focused on the sea change at ninth-ranked DeMatha, with a new coach and a host of new players filling key roles, it was one of the team’s stalwarts who came up with the biggest play to preserve a 24-20 season-opening victory over Loyola Blakefield in the I-95 Kickoff Classic on Saturday.
Defensive end Michael Moore, one of only a handful of returning starters, batted down a pass on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line midway through the fourth quarter and the Stags ran out most of the clock to preserve the victory in Elijah Brooks’s first game as head coach.
“It wasn’t looking good, but we knew what we had to do,” said Moore, who has accepted a scholarship offer from Virginia. “And we were going to get that stop.”
McCoy returned a kickoff 81 yards for the game-tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter, then leaped high to catch an 18-yard touchdown pass on fourth down in the second overtime. Kofi Toku’s point-after kick was hardly certain, but it whizzed through the uprights to give the Wolverines a 21-20 victory over the Maryland 4A defending champions.
“I knew [the game] depended on me,” the 5-foot-10 McCoy said. “I was going to go get it no matter what.”
In the nightcap, Dunbar lost to Dunbar-Baltimore, 22-8, in a game that was called with 4 minutes 33 seconds left after a fight broke out between players following a failed onside-kick attempt by the Crimson Tide. Game officials decided not to resume play after order was restored.
DeMatha went from having one of the Washington area’s most proven leaders in former coach Bill McGregor to a 27-year-old just four years removed from college.
As usual, the Stags also had plenty of new players in the lineup. Jamal Robinson, a sophomore whose older brother James is a standout basketball player at DeMatha, played quarterback. Charlie Jordan, a senior with little experience after missing most of last season with a broken left foot, started at running back and broke off two long touchdown runs.
If anyone felt different, it was Brooks, though he said the pit in his stomach was familiar. He had woken up at 4:30 a.m., unable to sleep, and headed to his home office to review the game plan. He managed only a banana and apple juice for breakfast and did not eat lunch before the 1:45 p.m. kickoff.
“Same butterflies in your stomach, like you’re playing,” Brooks said.
Brooks’s tenure started well enough. Jordan scored on a 77-yard run, then Chris King turned Robinson’s short pass into a 71-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead. After Loyola scored three consecutive touchdowns, Jordan broke around right end on the next play for a 65-yard touchdown that gave the Stags the lead for good.
“It was a tough offseason for everybody,” Brooks said. “To get that win was great for the team.”