2008 WCAC Football Season Preview

 

Highlight of the 2008 WCAC Season DeMatha @ Good Counsel

(Thursday October 2 on ESPN2)

There can be no doubt that that highlight of the 2008 WCAC football season will be the match-up between the DeMatha Stags and the Good Counsel Falcons. The game will be aired nationally on ESPN2 on October 2 at 1830 EST. 

I like the, always thrilling, DeMatha versus Good Counsel game in the middle of the WCAC season because it stacks up the drama and puts the regular season into perspective.  This is opposed to previous years when DeMatha played Good Counsel in the last game of the season, with the playoffs often muting the drama of the contest. As an added bonus I think that this scheduling difference will give some teams in the middle of the pack a boost in the incentive department to affect the scenarios going into the playoffs.  (Mark my words, this lends itself towards a team dropping a game that they normally wouldn’t.)  I’m not going to be able to go out on any limbs like The Guru picking Coolidge over Gonzaga, but I feel like it could happen to either DeMatha or Good Counsel.

And of course historically, St. Johns and McNamara will be ready and waiting for either of those two teams to slip, but the entire conference is dangerous.  This could be the year that McNamara does more than just earn a spot in the round of four and proves that they can win the big one.  Bishop O’Connell could knock somebody off: McNamara, St. Johns and DeMatha all play away games there this year.  It’s been a while since they have had any influence or relevance in the league and those three playoff contenders of the previous two years may have grown complacent.  However hungry the Knights are to remain current in an ever changing league, history shows that the odds still aren’t in their favor even if their schedule seems encouraging.

Conversely, the cards are definitely looking good for the Falcons as far as scheduling is concerned.  They play DeMatha smack dab in the middle of the season and they’ll need the time to rest and healthy bodies to make a championship run.  Their out of conference strength of schedule is questionable, and they have a whole heap of home games with emotional crowd support that usually translates into wins for Good Counsel.  If things pan out for the Falcons they can really rest up while playing away games at Gonzaga and Carroll when the season is all but decided.  Neither one of those two teams plays physically enough to be considered a tough match-up for the Falcons who are looking to extend an astounding streak of making it to the championship game. 

I still think that it will be interesting to see what happens when O’Connell plays Saint Mary’s Ryken.  I think that the gorilla in the room, as far as the league is concerned, is what Ryken will bring to the table.  Ryken will play a series of exhibition games in their first football contests in the history of their school and join the league next year. If they should happen to emerge we’ll have a three tier WCAC if Ireton stops acting like they need to pick and choose opponents because of their players’ self esteem.  Speaking of team self image, we’ll also find out right away if Carroll is any good when they play Ireton at home.  If Carroll doesn’t destroy Ireton right away, then you can put them down to be one of the worst teams in the WCAC again.  However if they should happen to win that game, and they might, then all bets are off for when Good Counsel plays there on Lions senior day a week before the playoffs.  But then again, they probably won’t need to win that game, that week, anyway.

WCAC League Structure

DeMatha Catholic High School Stags Our Lady of Good Counsel Falcons Gonzaga College HS Purple Eagles Saint Johns College High School Cadets Bishop McNamara High School Mustangs
Bishop O’Connell High School Knights Pope Paul VI High School Panthers Archbishop Carroll HS Lions Bishop Ireton High School* Cardinals Saint Mary’s Ryken HS** Knights

Each team in the WCAC plays every opponent once a year during the regular season, with home advantage alternating.  The four teams with the best records advance to a playoffs in succeeding weeks to determine the league championship.  Teams are represented from the District of Columbia (3), Maryland(3) and Virginia(2) so the title is respected as the premier private schools football championships for the entire metropolitan area.

* Bishop Ireton decided to stop formal affiliation with the league due to a lack of an ability to compete for the title.  The school’s headmaster actually lead a campaign to exclude perennial powers DeMatha, and Gonzaga from the league citing the higher enrollments of boys at those all-male institutions.  The bid was, of course, unsuccessful and now the headmaster hand picks the schedule of games.  This year they play four WCAC schools, however, none of them are all male institutions despite the fact that most of the schools in the league started out as all male.

**Saint Mary’s Ryken HS is entering the league officially next year.  The 2008 season is designed with a limited schedule for their inauguration into the league.  Their abbreviated season includes four WCAC teams.

My game of the week (GOW) highlighted games:

Friday, August 29 and Saturday, August 30 respectively GOW Toss up: Gonzaga @ Coolidge HS and Ireton @ Carroll. These two games being played in the heart of the city are a great kick-off to what should be an outstanding football season. Gonzaga might be surprised at some of the Colts’ weapons and we can finally see what a new coach can mean at the former Carroll football powerhouse.

Saturday, September 6 GOW O’Connell @ Ireton. This is the litmus test game. I know that it is hard to imagine that two Virginia teams would ultimately indicate the health of the entire league, but I believe it to be true. It doesn’t really matter who wins because Ireton isn’t really even in the league, but it should be fun to see them drag it out.

Friday, September 12 GOW Gilman HS (Baltimore) @ DeMatha. This is arguably the hardest out of conference game that any WCAC opponent will have this year, and DeMatha absolutely destroyed this same team last year 42-0. In this game we’ll get to see the overall health of the Stags and if they still have that swagger that accompanied them in the previous five years in which they won championships.

Friday, September 19 GOW St. Peters (NJ) @ Good Counsel. This could be historic if a WCAC team can make a great showing against a Pennsylvania school.  Too bad this is the St. Peters from New Jersey. Much like the preceding week, we’ll get to see a true test of how Good Counsel will fare this year against a team motivated to beat them, even though they aren’t talented enough to actually see it through.

Saturday, September 27 GOW Saint Johns College @ McNamara. Nobody knows what kind of team SJC is really going to have this year. Everybody has already come to expect that Mustang coach Bryce Bevill will have his team ready to play. Both of these teams made the playoffs in years prior but you get the feeling that something has got to give in the overall scheme of WCAC football relevance when you see these two teams. Does SJC have a quarterback? Will McNamara gain the momentum they need from successfully defending their own home turf to make a statement that they belong in the top echelon?

Thursday, October 2 GOW DeMatha @ Good Counsel. See above, and unless you’ve been under a rock it’s going to be on ESPN2. Get with the program and see one of the finest conferences in America do battle in a regular season match-up that is sure to have the pageantry and emotion of a championship game.

Saturday, October 11 GOW Gonzaga @ McNamara, the character game. This game could decide third and fourth place for the league, depending on whether or not the Purple Eagles can force the issue. A misstep here by Gonzaga could relegate them to the unlikely to make the playoffs category in only the second week of October.

Saturday. October 18 GOW DeMatha @ Gonzaga. Conventional wisdom says that depending on how beat up DeMatha and Gonzaga are, it may not be much of a contest despite the heated rivalry. However, Gonzaga played DeMatha really tough last year, and this year they have the benefit of the home crowd. This is a good old fashioned hate-fest that will definitely be played with the utmost of energy by both teams.

Friday, October 24 GOW Saint Johns College @ Good Counsel. These two teams split last year, but that is when the Cadets had a proven arsenal on offense. Good Counsel has the benefit of coaxing their young offensive line at home in the hopes of petering this game out. Look for Saint Johns to come into this game hype and willing to leave it all on the field.

Saturday, November 1 GOW Saint Johns College @ DeMatha. One has to wonder if the Cadets will have enough steam in their engines to carry them through their second big away game in a row. Perhaps this match-up is even tougher for the Stags if the Cadets are of the realization that they are fighting for their playoff hopes. Backing SJC into a corner is a pretty daunting task but if anyone can do it, it would be the returning champion Stags in their homecoming game. 

Friday, November 7 GOW McNamara @ DeMatha. This is going to be a good game to watch because these two teams will probably both be searching for a way to carry momentum into the playoffs. It might also be a good one to watch because they could also turn around a play each other in the first round the next week. When two teams play games close together like that then the games are usually very physical.

Saturday, November 8 GOW part two: Gonzaga @ Saint Johns College, the gut check game will be played at Blair HS to accommodate the throngs of students drunk off of hatred. This game might not answer any of the questions lingering in the WCAC as far as the playoff picture is concerned but it will be highly contested. This is the oldest football rivalry between privates in the District of Columbia that I know of, and they are sure to play really hard. The crowds will be rowdy, adding to the festival, too.

Dandini’s 2008 WCAC Preseason Power Rankings

1. DeMatha Catholic HS – five time returning champions, ten of the last fourteen, still has coach Bill McGregor despite losing a grip of seniors, including everybody’s All American Kenny Tate, to division one colleges all around the country.  (Tate’s at U. of Maryland now.)  There is no telling what coach McGregor has in his arsenal this year, but after reeling off five championships in a row, people are beyond wondering if he needs any help.  At DeMatha, the cupboard always seems to be full of ready players stacked in the depth charts.
2. Good Counsel – five time runners up, always the bridesmaid and never the bride, this team is hungry to be known for something other than losing to the big DM.  Jelani Jenkins their best senior and apparently the only one on the depth chart.  Also listen out for Caleb Porzel, their speed demon.
3. Bishop McNamara – enjoying a new resurgence with a recently hired coach, Bryce Bevill, these guys need to prove that they aren’t a passing fad.
4. Saint Johns College – finds a way to win big games despite being severely overmatched.  This year’s team could see them struggling to make the playoffs due to quarterback controversy.
5. Gonzaga – needs to turn their, once storied, program in a new direction.  The Purple Eagles haven’t made the playoffs in two years.
6. Bishop O’Connell – dying to make an impact.  This team could shock the world if they were to beat anyone above them in this power ranking.  They haven’t notched an upset in twenty years.
7. Paul VI – people barely know these guys exist, and for good reason.  This school did luck up and win a football championship in ’99 though.  Maybe they could do it again?
8. Archbishop Carroll – how this former powerhouse managed to come in last place in 2007 will stymie geneticists one day. 

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