2009 WCAC Football Preview & Pre Season Rankings

Uncharted Waters: DeMatha Football is Going for Seven Titles in a Row

* Doesn’t officially participate in WCAC football until 2010.

** Doesn’t officially participate in WCAC football until they grow a pair.

  

Let me start this whole thing off by saying that I fully expect DeMatha to win championships in the following sports this academic year: Soccer, Football, Basketball, Wrestling, Lacrosse, Golf, and Tennis.  Seven seems like a fitting theme for the year but I wouldn’t be surprised if we added Swimming, Ice Hockey, Baseball, and Track to the bounty.  The DeMatha Stags are even set to compete as a front runner in Cross Country and could conceivably run the table this year.  At this rate, it is only a matter of time before it happens.  Okay maybe I’m a DeMatha Stag fanatic, but hopefully this preview will help you develop your own appreciation for America’s finest Catholic all male secondary school.

What happens when you have kids that really want to succeed at life and you give them expert tutelage in liberal academic environment coupled with the moral discipline that comes along with a Catholic education?  They usually end up succeeding at just about everything they put their minds to. My hat is already off to the entering class of 2013 because my guess is that they want to win just as badly as the classes of the years prior.  The formula has never been more transparent.  The freshmen will undoubtedly have their time to shine, and some continue to break through despite playing on teams stacked up in the depth charts.   (See James Robinson of DeMatha basketball and Michael Branthover of DeMatha football, below, who both saw playing time as freshmen.)  Coach McGregor has a luxury many coaches dream of and he doesn’t play freshman on the varsity anymore.

The best still want to come to DeMatha because they know that they’ll be taught by the best that have a proven track record of success.  Although there are some things that have changed since the days when I haunted the hallowed halls; I’ve only been witnessing DeMatha get deeper and deeper every year.  Sure it was a slow trickle at first but the Stags seem to be building towards something spectacular.  In the classrooms and playing fields DeMatha kids learn from the most dedicated, and talented pedagogues.  Believe me when I tell you that they are sick in the game.  My former principal there, John Moylan, reigned over a spectacular career by any standard and received glory and acclaim for his work as an educator.  Do you know what he does in his “retirement?”  He coaches kids to become All American kickers and punters.  This is a guy who recently had a hip replacement.  Check the video.

YouTube – (Branthover) Remembering Art Doyle care of Brendan Ponton.

 

Speaking of Football

Who are we kidding?  DeMatha wants to win seven WCAC football championships in a row and they’re fully reloaded.  Coach Bill McGregor has gone on record and said that this is going to be one of his most experienced teams.  I believe him.  I have no reason to doubt a man who has the best coaching staff in the conference even when he didn’t have so many kids returning to play.  Coach Bill McGregor has sent a great deal of young men off to college with Division 1 scholarships, too.  There is probably no other coach in the country that can match his numbers when you consider he is entering his twenty-eighth season at the helm.

Some say that there is a controversy at the quarterback position with the graduation of last year’s MVP Tommy Chroniger who is playing at Towson State now.  If you were the best coach in the WCAC would you be worried?  (Offensive Coordinator Chris Baucia and junior Danny Tapscott, anyone?)  I’m already anticipating one of Coach McGregor’s famous running years in which he just pounds the hell out of teams on offense and then lets Assistant Coach Deno Campbell punish them some more on defense.  This is definitely the type of team that can do that because DeMatha is loaded on both sides of the ball with muscle, power and tenacity.  Woe to the opposition that believes that DeMatha kids aren’t mentally tough, and coached up!  Just think about this for a moment: Coach McGregor has built this tremendous football dynasty without the benefit of ever having a true home field because DeMatha has never had a football stadium or even a practice field.

DeMatha does have a history of pumping out tremendous football players under the guise of defensive back/ running back hybrids and this year is not going to be any different.  Senior Jeff Knox (6’3”, 4.55 forty yard dash) might be the best overall athlete in the WCAC this year.  I fully expect the University of Pittsburgh committed recruit to pick up where he left from the 2008 WCAC championship game in which he played excellent defense and then rushed for over 100 yards.  Senior Marcus Coker (6’1”, 222 lbs, 4.50 forty yard dash) is going to help him out carrying the rock as the University of Iowa recruit looks to eclipse 1000 yards for the second straight year as the featured back.  Look for DeMatha to break-in some younger running backs, too, in order to equate to high times of possession.

They are going to have plenty of help up front in the form of a massive offensive line anchored by human plows Shane Johnson (6’5”, 301 lbs, senior), Jake Geiser (6’3”, 273 lbs, senior), Arie Kouandijio (6’6”, 314 lbs, senior), and his “little” brother Cyrus Kouandijio, a junior who towers at 6’7”.  The offensive line is once again a force to be reckoned with both on the football field and at buffet spreads.  I don’t think that there is a finesse team in the WCAC with enough mustard that can account for all that beef.  And as if that isn’t enough another outstanding senior defensive back, Lorenzo Waters (6’1” 197 lbs, 4.49 forty yard dash) is set to make his mark to round out the list of names of kids that Coach McGregor is counting on to make this year special.

The DeMatha Stags begin the year as the number one football team in the state of Maryland and the number 25 spot in the respected USA Today poll which has been canvassing the country’s best high school football teams the longest.  Some newer publications have DeMatha football ranked as high as fifteenth in the nation, so you begin to see why I’m picking the DeMatha Stags to win the WCAC football championship in 2009.  The boys can flat out play, and this is the third year in a row that they’ve made just about everybody’s pre-season national poll.  With that being said, there is no true national game on this year’s schedule which reflects Coach McGregor’s philosophy to take care of stuff around the house.  There are some big games ahead, and to the delight of the Washington metropolitan area, they are all home grown.

Check the 2009 DeMatha Football Schedule Here

#1  DeMatha.  In addition to winning their seventh WCAC football championship in a row, I fully expect that the DeMatha Stags will protect their claim as the best that Maryland has to offer by avenging last year’s loss to the Gilman Greyhounds of Baltimore on September 12th.  The Stags could possibly contend twice with the recent Montgomery County conference rival Good Counsel for the reestablishment of football supremacy in the state of Maryland.  Crabcakes and football, baby!  Whether it is a four county schedule or not, I like the fact that DeMatha isn’t one of those teams that will run away from local opponents.  Besides the Stags representing Prince George’s County to the fullest, the rest WCAC is hard enough as it is…

#2  Good Counsel.  The Falcons still can’t catch a break.  Despite being absolutely loaded last year they managed to lose the championship for the sixth year in a row to DeMatha.  They return a solid linebacker corps with names like Gloster and Pitsenberger returning but I think that the Falcons are headed towards a rebuilding year and might have some trouble where they previously cruised.  Head Coach Milloy is certainly up to the task, but one has to wonder if losing so many big games to DeMatha isn’t taking a toll on his psyche.  Fortunately for Coach Milloy he also has speed demon Louis Young who can play offense and defense and offers stability and peace of mind to a team that lost a bunch of bright stars in a losing effort.

#3  Saint Johns College.  The Cadets haven’t been able to beat Good Counsel in recent years and that has eaten away at their confidence in big games.   While they have continued to make the playoffs, I wonder if SJC hasn’t fallen even further from their goal of another WCAC title in recent years to contrast their historic football program.  Perhaps their cue to issue in a new era of winning will be their newly constructed football stadium?  All around athlete Chuck Brown will probably give everyone in the conference a reason to think so.

#4  Bishop McNamara.  The Mustangs struggled to make the playoffs last year but they’ve managed to accomplish that four years in a row, now.  The best thing that they have going for themselves out in Forestville is the fact that they have a bona fide DeMatha alumnus as a head coach in Bryce Bevill.  The other thing that McNamara has going for them is a five star wide receiver by the name of Brandon Coleman.  If he can get the ball consistently, there is no doubt that WCAC will yield big yards-after-catch numbers because the 6’6”, 200 lb, two sport athlete has more than decent speed.

#5  Bishop O’Connell.  Last year the Knights surprised a few teams.  I don’t think that they will come as a surprise to anyone this year as most look to them to play the best WCAC football in the state of Virginia.  If they can sustain the momentum that they have seemingly built up over the years then they just might achieve their next goal of finally returning to the playoffs.  I have no idea how they are going to do it, but Coach Trimble has already pieced together a formidable football team and has his squad looking decent again.  Of course last year’s Coach of the Year will have his third son, Joshua, vying for a college scholarship in as many years so it just might be the charm that gets them into the playoffs.

#6  Gonzaga.  The Purple Eagles have problems on the football field.  If they keep messing around they are going to lose to Carroll pretty soon.  The once storied program hasn’t made the playoffs in years and they have some question marks in the skill positions.  All of this doesn’t bode well when you have teams just below you itching to make a quick name at your expense.  Look for junior quarterback Kevin Hogan to protect their reputations after throwing for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns even though he only started six games of last year’s disastrous 2-8 campaign.

#7  Archbishop Carroll.  I don’t know.  I can’t really explain myself.  I have to fight every urge in my fiber not to rank them number two in the WCAC even though they failed to win a game last year in my eyes.  (And I mean to say that the 69-0 “victory” over the Sparrows Point school that I had never heard of didn’t count in their 1-9 season.)  The Lions used to be so good.  I know that I wrote this last year and it paints me as a black supremacist, at best, and a overt racist at the worst, but if Carroll doesn’t shock someone this year it should stymie geneticists all over the world.  How can the black Catholic high school that was so good in my day, be in the cellar for so long today?  Senior defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu will likely do some things that will give the Carroll Lions a ray of hope. 

#8  Paul VI.  The Panthers have the coolest uniforms in the league but they lost too many players due to transfers.  Clearly the program is in shambles or I would have had them ahead of Archbishop Carroll, at least.  When the leading rusher in the WCAC leaves your high school because he isn’t getting scholarship offers, there is a very serious problem.  I have no idea what Paul VI is going to do about the mass exodus that happened over the summer this year –four probable starters bolted for other schools outside of the WCAC.  What I do know is that the former leading rusher in the WCAC will probably have the last laugh because Paul VI is light years away from their miraculous, lone championship run in 1999.

#9  Saint Mary’s Ryken.  Technically the “other Knights” aren’t in WCAC football yet but this is the second year of their introduction into the league.  The first year showed that they had a lot to learn as they couldn’t manage a win.  Look for more of the same hard knocks for SMR this year in their abbreviated schedule.  Life is going to be tough out there in Charles County for a while.  You might want to give them a couple more years although they return their starting quarterback, Senior Chris Rixey, from last year.

#10  Bishop Ireton.  The Cardinals are again sitting out this year in WCAC football because they don’t want to compete against DeMatha.  Seriously, the school signed a petition like ten years ago to get DeMatha banned from the WCAC because the Stags win too many championships.  I guess that’s how they do it in Alexandria?  I’m going to keep ranking them last every year that they compete in all the other WCAC sports except football from now on because they suck for picking and choosing.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the best private football team in the state of Virginia, but I couldn’t tell you one of their players today though.

 

Week by Week, Games to Watch

DeMatha is the place where you send your kid if you think that he has what it takes to earn a college scholarship.  The Trinitarians are going to help your kid do it and their plan has nothing to do with a football stadium.  (It makes perfect sense when you consider that Coach McGregor sent 13 kids to college last year but over one half of the 222 graduating seniors of 2009 received some type of scholarship offer, anyway.)  We’re playing our games all over Maryland, with home games at the Prince George’s County Sports & Learning Center in the shadow of Fed Ex field.  So don’t go driving up Hyattsville for homecoming.  So without further procrastination I present the Games of the Week. 

Week One:  29 AUG Gonzaga @ Anacostia.  I don’t know who needs this win worse,  the Purple Eagles who totally embarrassed themselves in a similar endeavor to conquer a DCIAA school or the Anacostia Indians who want to prove that they can play without recently retired, the legendary Coach Willie Stewart?  This nonconference game will be good indicator of the overall health of both leagues.  There was a time when even the bottom of the WCAC could count on victories against DCIAA teams, but as I’ve also seen times change.  FYI Coach Willie Stewart un-retired and decided to do one more year, like a punch drunk boxer, bringing his total to 41 years at the helm over there at the South East, Washington DC public high school.

Week Two:  04 SEP Archbishop Carroll @ Bishop Ireton.  The world is dying to see what Coach Houchens has done to improve on the most abysmal seasons that Carroll has ever had.  Beating Bishop Ireton even though they don’t officially play in the WCAC would be a good start.  This is a reality check, game.  Because this game is nonconference the Carroll Lions will look to prove that they can even play football with a team that somebody has at least heard of.  Bishop Ireton would like nothing better than to notch another victory against a school competing in the league that they are ultimately afraid of fully participating in. (Bishop Ireton plays in the WCAC for every sport except football, instead opting to compete for an independent state title.)  Archbishop Carroll is in Washington DC so they don’t necessarily fit into the Virginia Private School Championship picture which is why the Cardinals are dreaming of a win-win.

Week Three: 12 SEP DeMatha @ Gilman.  The Stags need to win this one on the road in Baltimore if they are going to call themselves the number one football team in the state of Maryland this year.  The Gilman Greyhounds ended those hopes early for DeMatha last year when they handed them their first of two losses on the season.  The Stags bounced back in terrific fashion, but we all know that they hate to lose and want to compete for as many titles as possible.  The Greyhounds, on the other hand, fizzled out and faded last year but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to set DeMatha back for the second year in a row. 

Week Four:  26 SEP Bishop McNamara @ Gonzaga.  It seems that we get to find out if Gonzaga will be in the playoffs earlier and earlier every year.  In 2009 the gut check comes when the Purple Eagles have to defend their home turf against a McNamara team that likes the pecking order just the way it is.  The Mustangs usurped Gonzaga years ago as a playoff contender so look for this game to have huge implications.  Athletic Director and Head Coach Reyda would only have himself to blame if Gonzaga has little hope of making the playoffs before the end of September.

Week Five:  02 OCT Gonzaga @ DeMatha.  No matter what happens the week before Gonzaga will be up and ready to play this game.  The Purple Eagles’ Athletic Director double duties as the Head Football Coach and he was shamed last year when Gonzaga failed to score more than six points for the second year in a row against a tough DeMatha defense.  The rivalry might not be as old as Gonzaga versus Saint Johns College or Gonzaga versus Georgetown Prep but DeMatha versus Gonzaga is certainly as heated as the link to that video is hilarious. The fact that this game is also homecoming for DeMatha is also of note.

Week Six:  09 OCT Good Counsel @ DeMatha.  Just because the game won’t be broadcasted on ESPN this year doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make every available effort to be there.  Depending on how things go at the beginning of the season, this game could have national significance but at a minimum the contest has major influence on the WCAC playoffs.  Every stretch of my imagination tells me that DeMatha is seeking revenge for a regular season blow-out in 2008 and a number one seed.

Week Seven:  17 OCT Bishop O’Connell @ McNamara.  Last year they were separated by only one point, with McNamara eking out a victory on the road to propel the Mustangs to the playoffs.  The Bishop O’Connell Knights have been on the doorstep in recent years and will look to stun McNamara at home so that they can have a chance at a WCAC title.  This game is likely to be for all the marbles if there are no upsets in early conference play so be ready for another nail biter that could go all the way down to the wire. 

Week Eight:  23 OCT Saint Johns College @ Good Counsel.  The Cadets will want to send the message that they can hang with the upper echelon of competition in the WCAC.  A win by the Falcons serves notice that they will still be a power in the conference this year and possibly for years to come.  If Good Counsel can manage to beat Saint Johns during a year in which they are rebuilding then it leaves little consolation for all the hard work that the Cadets have done to stay relevant.  Will the Falcons kill the upset noise?

Week Nine:  31 OCT Bishop O’Connell @ Saint Johns College.  One of these two teams is likely to be searching for a much-needed win.  The tough schedule of the WCAC doesn’t leave much room for breaks.  Nothing comes easy and playoff spots are to be protected at all costs.  The O’Connell Knights leave the comforts of Fairfax Virginia to come to play in the Cadets’ brand new stadium in Washington DC, and the Hallows Eve magic could be in the air and play a trick or treat.  

Week Ten:  07 NOV Paul VI @ Bishop O’Connell.  This is the best that the WCAC can muster for a battle in Virginia now that Bishop Ireton has basically quit the league.  (Ireton refused to play O’Connell this year despite the historic rivalry in order to preserve their schedule for the Virginia Private Schools Championship –a strategic and shrewd move on their part.)  What we’re left with is a struggling Paul VI team searching for importance in an extremely competitive league.  If the Panthers have any dignity they have to put up a good fight against a surging O’Connell team for recruiting purposes alone.  Paul VI has been losing the battle of late but you know what they say happens when you back a wild animal in the corner? 

There is bound to be a great finale to the WCAC regular season.

The WCAC Semifinals will be played on November 13, 2009.

The WCAC Finals will be played at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on November 21, 2009.

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