Back on Oct. 21 after DeMatha pulled out another thrilling, 21-14 overtime win over its rival St. John’s, Stag junior quarterback Denzel Gardner made a prediction.
In the heat of the moment of victory when asked if he was concerned that they may have shown too much in the win and that it could impact on a possible later rematch in the playoffs, Gardner quickly responded, “We didn’t show everything. We have a lot more and the result will be the same.”
Well, he was right as his team won convincingly, 21-3 in the semifinals of the WCAC playoffs at the Prince George’s Learning Center in Landover, Maryland, on Nov. 10, a cold and rainy Friday night.
The win was a vindication of sorts for the Stags, who were eliminated, 21-3 in last year’s semifinals by their rival. The dominant program has won 24 WCAC championships, but with St. John’s, Gonzaga and Good Counsel all becoming stronger, the Stags have not won a title since 2016.
DeMatha (9-1), ranked number three in the area, parlayed the running of Bud Coombs, who scored all the touchdowns and a stingy defense led by junior linebacker Emmit Laws that made life miserable for the defending champs.
Coombs scored the game’s first touchdown on a 55-yard run that set the tone. He would later score on a one-yard plunge that gave the Stags a 14-3 halftime lead that seemed larger.
The Cadets (5-5), ranked number seven in the area, could not get anything going against the relentless Stags defense. Coombs’ last touchdown was set up by a fourth-down sack by Laws to send them to the WCAC championship on Nov. 21 against number-one seed, Good Counsel (9-1), which took care of number 14 Gonzaga (5-5), 20-2 in the other semifinal. The game will be played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD and will kick off at 7 pm.
It will be a rematch between the two local powers. Both have played national opponents this season. In the regular season meeting, Good Counsel defeated the Stags, 35-28 in an overtime thriller. The Falcons, who were ranked in the Top 25 earlier in the season, boast a senior-laden squad of Top Division 1 prospects and will again be a serious challenge for the Stags. They have reeled off nine straight wins after an early season road loss.
Coombs said that his team is prepared for the challenge.
“We just outwork everybody,” Coombs said. “We work harder. We lift harder. We run harder. We’re just built different.”
For years, DeMatha was no stranger to these championships, having made a habit out of this, with a conference-record 24 championships. But its WCAC rivals — St. John’s (5-5), Gonzaga and Good Counsel — had all captured titles since the Stags’ last in 2016.