Stags Sports Update: GONZAGA GONSHWAGA

"Winning is fun and can cause you to bragga

But whatever you do — please beat Gonzaga." -from TP

The DeMatha Stags have their work cut out for them this weekend. The basketball team has been rolling of late, and hasn’t lost in the month of February. They are fresh off a nationally televised double-digit road win over Bishop O’Connell and will play the remaining two games of the regular season at home. If the Stags can manage to win against the current WCAC first placed Gonzaga on Friday night then they will be a lock for a top seed in the playoffs next weekend. Saint Johns plays at DeMatha on Monday for the final home game of the season, but everybody knows that DeMatha is focused on knocking down the defending champion Purple Eagles rather than the Cadets who have been struggling.

So far the Saint Johns Cadets have been the latest victim in a top-heavy conference that has had five teams in the national rankings: DeMatha (currently #14), Gonzaga (currently #13), McNamara (ranked as high as #20 at one point in the season), Bishop O’Connell (ranked as high as #25 at the beginning of the season), and Paul VI (ranked as high as #17). Surprisingly, Good Counsel is the dark horse in the league and the Falcons managed to upset DeMatha at home earlier in the season despite not ever achieving a national ranking. Not so surprisingly Archbishop Carroll, Saint Mary’s Ryken and Bishop Ireton are all in the cellar of the league this year.

The pressure is mounting in the WCAC, and while DeMatha had the initiative early, Gonzaga effectively wrested control when they were able to take advantage of their home court on January 21st. Of course, I’m going to be forced to go to the DeMatha home game early February 20th to exact some birthday revenge while watching the freshman, junior varsity and varsity starting at 4PM. The DeMatha basketball teams aren’t the only ones about to have a showdown with the Purple Eagles, though. I’ll let our development director tell that story and explain a little more about our apparent rivalry. Peep the block quote below:

The varsity hockey team beat Gonzaga yesterday in the playoffs.  The varsity basketball team will host Gonzaga tomorrow night in a big WCAC game.  The swim team will compete against Gonzaga (and a host of other schools) in Saturday’s Metros competition.

We bring this up in that it should be obvious to most that, while DeMatha has had many adversaries over the years, Gonzaga has become our biggest rival in virtually every sport.  Of course, we say this having endured the ignominy of The Purple Eagles being placed ahead of us in last year’s Sports Illustrated rankings of athletic departments.  We understand how rankings are designed to sell copy and are folly, but Gonzaga? Ahead of us? The horror. The horror.  Say it ain’t so Joe (Kozik).

The truth of the matter is that having rival schools, all in the proper context, can be fun.  "As long as things are not taken to extremes, rivalries can be wonderful for fans, players, and alums," said Dr. Daniel McMahon, principal.  "Rivalries affirm what you have in common.  Therefore, the game or contest is what then is used as a measure to distance one school from the other."

If anyone understood firsthand the Gonzaga-DeMatha rivalry and the ethos of both all-male institutions, it would be Dr. McMahon, as he and brother Tim (DM ’78) are pitted against their two young brothers, Chris and Greg, who happen to be Gonzaga grads.  In fact, Chris McMahon is in the Gonzaga Hall of Fame.  A picture of Tim and Chris McMahon, wearing the football jerseys of their respective schools — and sharing the same number — can be viewed here.

It was also Dr. McMahon, who, in a meeting with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (a Gonzaga alum, we have to admit), presented the Governor with a DeMatha tie and reminded him that, as Governor of Maryland, he had no choice but to support the schools in his own state.  O’Malley, being the true politician, nodded, but we know where his loyalties lie.  In fact, when his band performed at DeMatha a few years ago, we just had to present then (Baltimore) Mayor O’Malley with a DeMatha t-shirt, which he promptly used to wipe the sweat off of his brow.  At the end of the night (10 pm), he then teased us for shutting down so soon saying that real Gonzaga men would never turn in so early. Of course, we would have had to pay him and his band mates more for overtime but that’s another story.

Perhaps the most famous incident between the two schools took place in November 2003 when DeMatha and Gonzaga were to play for the football championship at Byrd Stadium.  It seems that a few Gonzaga students left a dead deer at the front door of DeMatha as (we can only guess) a sign of what was going to happen later that day. While that prank obviously was misguided, the DeMatha students used it to their advantage that night as a mock coffin was carried out on the field and the school’s mascot, "Buck the Stag" (a student in a deer outfit), busted out of the coffin to the thunderous roar of the DeMatha faithful.

Of course, the hallmark of the rivalry is the give and take between the student sections at various games.  Again, while some of these chants can be off base, there have been some classic exchanges down through the years.  In the first year Mike Jones was the head coach of the DeMatha varsity basketball team, the Gonzaga student section began this cheer during a game:


To which our students countered, "HALL OF FAME, HALL OF FAME, HALL OF FAME."

Of course, the Swampoodle partisans have also had to remind us that ‘God is Purple’ — a popular sign at Gonzaga games down through the years.  The DeMatha response?  ‘So is Barney!’  And so it goes.

Without question, Gonzaga’s greatest gift to DeMatha may have been Ray Smith, the Eye Street ’54 grad, who worked at DeMatha for what could only be characterized as 35 semi-odd years.  "Raybo" or "The Little General" was known for his loud shirts, booming voice, and ability to throw unsuspecting miscreants out of the window of his first floor class.  Oh yeah, he taught Algebra and coached golf somewhere along the way too.

In all seriousness, we should point out that over the years the schools have worked together for greater purposes.  One year the two faculties came together for a one-day retreat; Gonzaga benefactors heavily supported the Tim Strachan/DeMatha Gala in 1994; recently, Matt Krimm ’88 has held a huge DC benefit each year for a Scholarship Fund at Gonzaga in the memory of his friend Erik Kristenson, a Gonzaga grad and US Navy Seal who died in Afghanistan.  The benefit also supports a DeMatha Scholarship Fund in honor of Pat Krimm, Matt’s father, a Vietnam Veteran who started our school’s hockey program. Not surprisingly, both Strachan and Matt Krimm will be "in the house" for tomorrow night’s Gonzaga game.

So we conclude with the story of a new book written by a Gonzaga alum, "In The Eyes of History:  Gonzaga College & The Lincoln Assassination": It seems the book finds a way to connect Gonzaga grads with virtually the dawn of Man as well as the invention of liquid soap.  However, specifically, the book traces several Gonzaga "people" to those who killed the man generally recognized as our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.  So, I ask, tomorrow night, should our students chant —


Okay, probably not.  But I do think this new book’s revelation does make me understand one thing quite clearly — now we know why so many DeMatha grads are Secret Service Agents.

Go Stags!  Beat Gonzaga!


I know that I’ve been rather lazy in posting about basketball this year and I didn’t want you guys to think that I didn’t care.  The reality is that with every team playing twice in the season, it is an arduous task to keep track of it every week.  I hope that you’ve been following along at DC Sports Fan because it would be like a full time gig to keep up with all the twists and turns.  I do know that DeMatha (23-3)has only three losses, two of which have come at the hands of a nationally ranked opponent.  The best I can do is put up the rankings before the conference tournament starts next weekend…  Yeah, so I can’t get any more in depth than Tom Ponton, right now. You heard the man: Don’t let your kids grow up to be people that would harbor the likes of John Wilkes Booth.

Pray for the quick recovery of DeMatha British Literature instructor Dr. Charles "Buck" Offutt who suffered a stroke last week after over 50 years of service.

Beat Gonzaga!



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