When Del Smith took over as head coach at O’Connell in February, he was tasked with building a program that had gone 1-9 the previous year. His mission in his first year, he said, was simple: “The biggest thing to do is convince kids they can win football games,” Smith said.

The team clearly bought in to that message. O’Connell is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2008. They have outscored opponents 131-38, with a 17-13 win over St. Mary’s Ryken the only game within 14 points.

The Knights are led by QB Leighton Dassau (474 yards passing, three touchdowns; 165 yards rushing) and running back Kamrin Moore (276 yards, six touchdowns), but have also been resourceful in finding ways to get into the end zone.

The Knights have three defensive touchdowns in the past two weeks. Senior linebacker Joseph Civiello and senior defensive end Nicholas Patrizio have been vital, Smith said, along with junior linebackers Earon Settles and Santoni Graham.

“You never factor in momentum and big plays when you line up,” Smith said. “And if you can block a punt or something, it can change the outcome of a football game. We’re just trying to find those plays right now.”

O’Connell will need plenty of those plays as it prepares for the heart of its schedule. The Knights now face the gauntlet of the WCAC, beginning with No. 5 DeMatha (4-0) this week and continuing with St. John’s (3-2), Gonzaga (3-2), McNamara (2-2) and top-ranked Good Counsel (4-1).

“If they were all chalked up as losses we wouldn’t play,” Smith said. “I think our kids are believing they can win. We practice humility a lot, we have a theme of the week and last week it was humility. We are just trying to keep it in perspective. We know we haven’t played the better teams yet, and we’re trying to get the kids prepared to compete.”

Crocket excels for McNamara

With a number of Football Bowl Subdivision recruits on the roster, it is easy to overlook a 5-9 wide receiver. But McNamara Coach Bryce Bevill had been extolling the abilities of junior Jordan Crocket for weeks.

On Friday, the two-sport athlete showcased what had Bevill so excited, catching seven passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns and returning a kickoff 82 yards for a score in a tough 31-29 loss to St. John’s.

“He is as quick as he is fast and that’s a dangerous combination in high school,” Bevill said. “His ability to change direction, and his biggest attribute is his ability to see the field and his ability to anticipate. I attribute that to being a point guard. As a point guard you have to know what people are going to do through body movement. He does a great job on that.”

All the skills were on display against St. John’s (3-2). Crocket used his speed to break one touchdown on a fly route, then used his shiftiness to turn a slant into a long touchdown and his vision to break off the kickoff return.

Special teams mistakes — a fumbled snap on a 27-yard field goal attempt and a missed extra point — came back to bite McNamara (2-2) however. Freshman quarterback Ramar Williams rushed for a touchdown from eight yards out as time expired, but because of the missed extra point, the Mustangs were forced to go for two to tie the game and send it to overtime and could not convert.

Around the IAC

Bullis (4-0) remained undefeated with a 43-8 win over Avalon on Saturday, aided by Devonte Williams’s 104 yards rushing. Williams, who scored the game’s first touchdown, has rushed for 382 yards and six touchdowns through four games. . . . Landon’s running game was prolific in Saturday’s 35-26 win over Collegiate, as the Bears rushed for 401 yards. Myles Allen returned to the starting lineup after missing two games and rushed for a team-high 152 yards and a touchdown to lead Landon (3-1). . . . St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes took down Potomac School to remain unbeaten in 2012. St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes scored 20 fourth quarter points to blow open a tight 7-6 ballgame, including two late touchdowns from running back Darius Manora, who finished with 138 yards rushing. . . . St. Alban’s quarterback Mike McCurdy threw two 80-yard touchdown passes and finished with 328 yards passing in a 35-21 win over St. Mary’s Ryken. McCurdy has already thrown for 1,040 yards and 12 touchdowns this season for St. Albans (2-2).

Around the MAC

Isaiah Davis rushed for 150 yards and Kameron Mitchell added 77 yards on the ground to help Sidwell Friends (3-0) to a 37-8 win over Model. Davis scored twice and Mitchell added a third touchdown in a 27-point second quarter. . . . Flint Hill (1-2) secured its first win of the season with a 37-6 victory over John Paul the Great Saturday, as quarterback Stevie Peterson threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Peterson, who also doubles as the team’s place kicker, also rushed for a touchdown. Maret (3-0) had a bye last weekend and will meet Riverdale Baptist Friday.