DeMatha Stags Win 2008 WCAC Football Championship!

Was There Ever Any Doubt?

The DeMatha Stags refused to lose and came away with the 2008 WCAC Football Championship against incredible odds.  The Stags proved that they were willing to leave it all out there on the field.


The DeMatha defense played their hearts out in the first quarter by holding Good Counsel to a measly field goal attempt that doinked off of the right upright after turning the ball over on a fumble deep in their own territory.  Good Counsel’s only score came early in the second quarter on a run by speed demon, Caleb Porzel and the Stags were down 7-0, but at least they weren’t down 21-0 like the first game.

Deno Campbell is an absolute genius.  Jeremiah Mathis, Patrick Goulden, Emmanuel McPhearson, and Tommy Chroniger on the defense were all great, again, but I saw #57 Ikichi Nnawuba putting it down on Good Counsel’s center all night long.  Nnawuba was blowing guys off of the ball and causing havoc, and hitting guys before they got started!  Soon after the start of the second quarter it became obvious that all that work would pay off.

Jelani Jenkins looked tired.  Caleb Porzel lost a step or two because Stags were putting hats on him.  The entire Stag defense looked so charged, starting with that goal line stand at the beginning of the game (twice) and guys were flying to the ball and gang tackling.  Nobody can claim to hold Good Counsel in back to back goal line stands like that this year.  By the time we got the safety, I knew it was a done deal, even though were still down 7-2.


Scoring Summary
2 QTR  GC Touchdown, 7-0 12-Yard run by Caleb Porzel.
2 QTR  DM Safety, 7-2 Caleb Porzel tackled in end zone.
2 QTR  DM Touchdown, 7-8 6-Yard run by Marcus Coker, kick failed.
3 QTR  DM Touchdown, 7-14 24-Yard interception by Emmanuel McPhearson, kick failed.
3 QTR  DM Touchdown, 7-21 25-Yard run by Aaron Conaway, Branthover kick.
4 QTR  DM Touchdown, 7-28 3-Yard run by Marcus Coker, Brathover kick.
4 QTR  DM Touchdown, 7-34 4-Yard run by Aaron Conaway, conversion attempt failed.

Standout senior Jelani Jenkins felt the same: “It was a shocker,” Jenkins said of the safety. “They got the momentum after that.”  Maybe I was the one that needed to see that safety, because some of the DeMatha players said they had it all in the bag the whole time.  "We thought we were going to win the moment we stepped on the field," DeMatha running back Aaron Conaway added. "We have the blue shoes that never lose, and we’re DeMatha. You can’t beat us." 

Head Coach Bill McGregor deserves every accolade that we can give him, as well.  I am so proud of this bunch of Stags because they took their lumps and learned.  DeMatha did exactly what I knew they could do: they beat up Caleb Porzel and wore Jelani Jenkins out on defense rendering him ineffective on offense.  What a fantastic win.  34-7 is a major can of whoop ass, to be putting on a team that usually scores at least 42 points a game.   The final score is even more staggering when you consider that DeMatha lost 42-21 to Good Counsel just weeks ago on national television.

We play big in big games. We’re 32-4 in playoff games,” said McGregor. “We just wanted to be the WCAC football champion. It was a long, hard road. Things didn’t look so good after that first game. We were scratching our heads, thinking we’ve just got to go back to the drawing board. I think to a man, we dedicated our season.”

I know there will be people saying that it was close, but it wasn’t.  The Stag defense picked the best time of the year to play at their best.  They were all in the backfield and chasing guys down like they stole something.  The penalties were limited and the Stags were disciplined through the end despite the fact that the referees tried to give Good Counsel some hope.

Midway through the third quarter DeMatha started to pull away and make it totally official with the help of a strong ground game.  Senior Aaron Conaway carried the ball eleven times, all in the second half, for 101 yards.  Time continued to wane while DeMatha continued to pound the ball with steady runs and it became apparent to everyone that Good Counsel was headed towards another loss in the championship.  “It’s really never their year,” Conaway said. “It’s always DeMatha’s.”

Tough loss for the Falcons, and they were classy all the way, but….  Amazing game for the Stags.  And yes, I mean Power Memorial type of amazing…  If you call yourself a Stag and you weren’t there, then you missed one for the ages.  Nobody thought that we would win and instead of fulfilling expectations, we dominated.  

First Team All WCAC, and MVP candidate, quarterback Tommy Chroniger had this to say:  "We’re back and we’re not going away.  It’s been six years in a row that we’ve won the championship, and I’m pretty sure that we’ll be back here again next year."



A Giant Comparison

Our kicker/punter, Michael Branthover, is such a weapon it’s not even funny anymore.  This kid is a sophomore and he changes the nature of the game.  (And I mean, on the level that Kenny Tate could change the game when he was a sophomore.)  He had awesome punts that bailed DeMatha out, time after time…  And if it were not for the fact that our guys couldn’t seem to block point-after attempts, he could have been perfect.

John Moylan must be telling this kid something extra, because the way he was kicking the ball tonight was definitely the difference.   People talk about punter Jeff Feagles for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants for his uncanny ability to drive receiving teams back with his leg.  Well Branthover pinned the Falcons within the five a couple of times and had Caleb Porzel back-peddling and looking rather silly.

Think about it… Branthover is a kicker/punter.  It’s not supposed to happen like that.  Besides, comparing a high school kicker/punter to an NFL Super Bowl Champion and Pro Bowler is a pretty giant comparison.  But it isn’t just Brathover that draws a parallel to the New York Giants.  The entire team seemed to mimic the Giants with their win over a previously undefeated and vaunted team: I’ll give three reasons why this comparison isn’t crazy talk. 

1.  Branthover – Feagles… maybe not close in ability, but definitely close in value to their respective teams.  The only thing is that Michael Branthover was considerably more valuable in the Stag championship win than Feagles was in the Super Bowl.  Branthover could have easily been named the MVP of the game.

2.  Tommy Chroniger did enough to give the DeMatha Stags the win and managed the process masterfully.  Eli wasn’t spectacular but he did just enough, too.  Take away the fumble on the first possession and Tommy is flat out awesome.  Like Bill said, "…Tommy [Chroniger] didn’t want to come off the field. He played linebacker, safety, everything. He’s really the heart and soul of this team." 

3.  Mathis, Goulden and Nnawuba held it down on the line and the Giants also rely heavily on getting pressure with a strong front.  Not only did they effectively stop the run of two dynamic backs, but they were effective most of the time in the pass rush.  There are college and professional teams that aren’t able to master this tour de force.

The Giants and Patriots split last year, if you recall, and there was still lingering speculation that the Patriots were the better team despite losing that one game.  Loyal Patriot fans point to the win over the Giants in the regular season to illustrate their point.  To those that are of that mind set, I have only one thing to say: I beg to differ. 

I think that the Giants are a better team than the Patriots, and when it mattered most they did, in fact, prove it.  The key phrase is when it mattered most.  While the overall records of both teams may lend credence to arguments that the New England Patriots could still be considered better, there is nothing ambiguous about the Giants’ Super Bowl win and the audacious rings that they sport. 

As for DeMatha and Good Counsel, the same rules apply, there is nothing ambiguous about guys hoisting up a championship trophy and six fingers.  (I mean, come on.  The Stags needed two hands, man.)  Winning the championship means that you are better, if only due to the fact that you are winning when it matters the most.

New England still has one of the most talented teams that the NFL has ever been seen and Good Counsel can always take credit for fielding the most talented player in the league this year in Jelani Jenkins.  (And, quietly, that is saying a lot because I could make a good case for Tom Chroniger being a more valuable asset as a two-way player.)  The only thing is Tommy didn’t play both ways all year long like Jelani did -probably because Bill knew that would eventually wear him out…  Let’s just say that Tommy versus Jelani is debatable.  (See below.)

As for the Falcons being better that the DeMatha Stags: no way.  I don’t know what those guys are going to do about it, and I don’t care either.  But the bottom line is that nobody said that October 2nd was going to be the deciding factor for league championship.  Sure, it was broadcast on ESPN2, but it was just a regular season game.  I think some of the Falcons bought into that win and thought that it was a coronation, but the coronation for the WCAC happened to be played on November 22nd.

There can be no doubt that the DeMatha Stags are the best football team in the WCAC in 2008.


Who Is the MVP of the WCAC?  Making a Case for Tommy

There is a controversy brewing in the metropolitan area these days.  The controversy stems from the fact that Jelani Jenkins is the undisputed best player in the WCAC, but Tom Chroniger should be named the MVP of the league.

Championship experience shouldn’t be discounted but I don’t believe that the show would be anything near the final product if you take Tommy out of the Stag equation.  Good Counsel could have done almost the exact same thing as they did this year anyway, with or without Jelani.  Didn’t Good Counsel get all the way to the title, only to lose, last year, the year before that, and the year before that, too?

While that effort is commendable and the Good Counsel Falcons should take pride in their accomplishments, one cannot forget that the Stags actually won all those games, though.  And if you start throwing in the fact that Tommy was on the team last year, too… And the year before that… 

The most valuable guy is Tommy Chroniger.  Four football titles in four years, for one player is kind of hard to argue with, given the fact that Jelani Jenkins hasn’t won shit.  If the WCAC had a Heisman Trophy, he could definitely claim that but MVP of the league should go to the guy that was truly most valuable. 

Jenkins didn’t make the Falcons any more special, he just made a bigger name for himself.  Jenkins is bigger than the Falcons.  The Falcons are more like Jelani’s Most Valuable Team.  Good Counsel has fared the same with or without Jenkins: they have been destined for second place for a minute now.  After all, what is one less running back when you have Caleb "I scored the only (2) touchdowns for Good Counsel in the last two championship games" Porzel?  According to the Washington Post, Jelani didn’t even lead the Falcons in tackles at linebacker: That distinction belongs to Chris Pitsenberger. 

I know that there are going to be groans because I’m stating the obvious: just because you happened to be a highly recruited athlete, it doesn’t mean that you are helping your team the most.  As much as I want to root for Jelani because he is truly a great kid, the cold hard facts indicate that he isn’t nearly as valuable to his team for all of his God-given natural ability as people think he is.  Meanwhile Tommy Chroniger led the DeMatha Stags and the WCAC with 30 touchdowns and played both sides of the ball in the championship game


The Biggest Adjustment

You can’t make a serious argument that Good Counsel is better than DeMatha this year.  Even if you wanted to add the scores from the two games in which the teams played this year, you will find that DeMatha is leading by six (6) points, 55-49.  With that being said, DeMatha made up some serious ground against a Good Counsel team that was averaging over five touchdowns a game. 

Clearly, the biggest adjustment was made on the defensive side of the ball, starting with switching from a 4-3, to a 3-3-5.  Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach Deno Campbell also didn’t take any chances, and he put his best players on the field even if that meant playing two ways.  Emmanuel McPherson, Michael Milburn, and Tom Chroniger all went the extra mile and performed wonderfully.

Good Counsel was confused straight out of the gate by the 3-3-5 with 8 players in the box.  The new 3-3-5 scheme prevented Caleb from getting outside, while also providing enough pressure inside to hold Jelani at bay, as well as their quarterback, Tyler Campbell, from completing crucial throws .  The fact that Good Counsel never made proper adjustments, even after halftime, goes to show you that DeMatha has a bit of an advantage in the coaching department.

I’m not saying that Bob Milloy isn’t a good coach, because he is.  I am saying that DeMatha has better coaches, though.  DeMatha also had the advantage in the offensive line department:  #77 Pete deSouza, #79 Calvin McDowney, and #78 Shane Johnson are all above 300 pounds and bullied the undersize line of Good Counsel all night long.  (All of them received All WCAC honors, as well.)  Now that I think about it, the offensive line could have been my fourth comparison point to the champion New York Giants…  Simply incredible that those guys are in high school, and there was simply no adjustment for such tremendous size.


Straight from the DeMatha Express and Director of Development Tom Ponton

My cousin asked me a few years ago what the secret was to our success.  I told him how Bill McGregor was willing to take phone calls from college coaches on Christmas Day when another high school coach had cussed out the colleges for calling him at that time.  I also told him about Bill McGregor calling me one New Year’s when I told him that my sister’s neighbor, John Thomas ’94, was interested in coming to DeMatha, even though he lived near Dulles Airport.  My cousin’s response, "You guys are crazy.  I just don’t want a win that badly."

Finally, when Kenny Roy ’73 was inducted into the DeMatha Hall of Fame, he recalled a basketball game in which DeMatha was losing by something like 5 points with 12 seconds to go.  "Morgan called a timeout," Kenny said. "He told us, ‘We got ’em right where we want ’em.’  I looked at the scoreboard and said to myself, ‘What game is he watching’?"  It was then Kenny gave us this quote, which he said he learned in high school:  "At DeMatha, we never lose a game — we just run out of time."

We didn’t run out of time on November 22nd!


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