Ever since their youth football days, Darryl Turner Jr. and his brother have played by an unwritten rule — if they get within five yards of the end zone, no matter what, they must score.
The DeMatha junior wide receiver had already demonstrated a relentless spirit in juking past one, then two, and then three St. John’s defenders along the left sideline during the first overtime of Friday’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference matchup. So as Turner broke free with the pylon in sight, he abandoned his sprint and leapt forward, soaring into the end zone for the decisive touchdown in the Stags’ 21-14 overtime win in Hyattsville.
With the victory, No. 14 DeMatha extended a win streak against the fourth-ranked Cadets that stretches back to 1994.
“After I broke the first tackle, everything sort of opened up,” said Turner, who caught two touchdowns on the night, including the 23-yard game-winner. “Once I got close to the end zone, all I thought about was me and my brother’s rule. I had to score.”
Turner’s perseverance on the play punctuated a trying five-week period for the Stags that included humbling losses to out-of-state opponents and a rare 2-2 start for the reigning WCAC champions. The journey was necessary to their title defense, DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks had told his team, and after seeing St. John’s senior Scotty Washington run the opening kickoff back 71 yards for a touchdown, the Stags (3-2, 1-0 WCAC) were once again faced with adversity.
The fast start, however, gave way to a defensive battle. St. John’s held DeMatha off its side of the field for the opening 23 minutes, while the Stags held the Cadets to 29 first-half yards.
Just before halftime, the Stags got on the board, as Beau English found Turner for a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 7.
The touchdown helped the sophomore quarterback find a rhythm in just his fourth game as the starter. After completing a long pass to Turner, English connected with Kellon Taylor for a 32-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
“We’ve played some tough teams, so that’s helped prepare us for adversity,” said English, who finished with 142 passing yards and three touchdowns. “I’ve had to grow up as a player and show myself to be a leader for this team.”
DeMatha’s defense helped English’s cause by forcing St. John’s (4-1, 0-1) to turn the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession. But a Stags fumble gave the Cadets new life, resulting in a 22-yard touchdown run by Omar Garcia that forced overtime.
The Stags shifted from their typically conservative run approach and threw the ball to Turner on a short flare pass that the junior turned into the go-ahead score. Four plays later, Turner took to the air again to deflect what would have been a sure St. John’s touchdown pass to secure the game and extend DeMatha’s win streak against the Cadets.
“A lot of people counted us out and thought we’d be down this year,” Turner said, “but this shows that DeMatha’s still here.”