WCAC Football 2009: Pride Week 7 Recap

Pride Week

The WCAC is a tough league for tough teams, and whiners are often the losers. There aren’t a whole lot of athletic conferences in the country that can boast two nationally ranked teams in football so it should go without saying that competition can sometimes be lopsided. Some weeks the eight conference league can serve up some real sleepers, as far as matchups are concerned. This was not one of those weeks.

The Penultimate Bowl also known as The Little Cat Bowl

Archbishop Carroll went into Virginia and shut out Paul VI 18 – 0 to win The Little Cat Bowl which also determines the difference between penultimate and last place in the WCAC. I guess this means that Coach McGroarty over there at Paul VI is coming to the full realization of what transferring athletes can do to a program. The Lions and Coach Houchens are riding high with an official WCAC win and can officially brag that they have improved on their record from last year. This wasn’t so much of an exciting game to watch as it was a curious spectacle of incompetence. If both of these teams don’t wake up soon then the rest of the WCAC will pass them by.

The Fight for a Future Bowl

Gonzaga announced to the league that their program is finally on deck to make the playoffs again when they dished out a 47 – 7 drubbing to Bishop O’Connell. The Knights could have made a similar statement by winning the game but apparently they just don’t have the right stuff. The Purple Eagles were coming off of a loss to DeMatha in which they looked good but now the two programs seem to be heading in completely different directions. I’m not so high on O’Connell anymore in football. Head Coach Trimble might have reached a ceiling of sorts because a loss to Gonzaga pretty much relegates O’Connell to being the sixth best team in the league.

The Contender Bowl

The Bishop McNamara Mustangs have officially arrived with a brilliant, high-flying, 38 – 35 win over Saint John’s. I don’t know if either team’s defense showed up to the game but the score is indicative that there was no shortage of offense on the field. While McNamara only has one loss to a nationally ranked Good Counsel team, one has to wonder how long publications like the Washington Post are going to continue to sleep on the program that Bryce Bevill has built. The Saint John’s Cadets are going to have to recover quickly because they have to face DeMatha and Good Counsel over the next two weeks, at home and away, respectively. The Mustangs can pretty much cruise until November when they will meet the Stags in the last game of the regular season. McNamara’s buoyed confidence could end up giving them an unexpected edge heading into the playoffs.

The National Consequences Pre-Championship Bowl

Once again DeMatha versus Good Counsel lived up to the hype and with the Stags prevailing 24-21 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to claim regular season bragging rights. This game was another one for the ages and it was played on a lovely, uncharacteristically warm, Friday night that held an electric atmosphere. While the game was not broadcasted on ESPN, there were plenty of journalists on hand to witness what would be the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in DeMatha history according to Head Coach Bill McGregor.

The game started well enough for the Stags as they opted to receive the ball at the outset of the game. DeMatha managed to drive down the field on the moderate success of running plays and Michael Branthover kicked a 39-yard field goal for the game’s first score. The early 3 – 0 lead would be last that DeMatha would see until the game winning touchdown because Good Counsel proceeded to put on a clinic of excellent high school football clock management. The Falcon’s offense could not be stopped in the first half and running back Wes Brown (19 carries for 107 yards and one touchdown) ate up clock and quarterback Zach Dancel (completed 11/16 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns) made plays.

DeMatha appeared to be overmatched when they were staring at a 21 – 3 deficit in the third quarter because the game was clearly under Good Counsel’s control. The most glaring problems for the Stags were on defense and the inability to stop the Falcons was more pronounced by their inability to put points on the board. Good Counsel linebacker Chris Pitsenberger was playing the bad guy, but truth be told, there were a bevy of Falcons making hard hitting plays in the Stags’ backfield that kept them out of the end zone for three quarters. Daniel Tapscott (completed 7 of 19, for just 73 yards) was never really in rhythm for DeMatha at quarterback and the passing game didn’t fare any better against a top notch Good Counsel defense.  Ryan Burbrink only caught two passes for 41 yards.

DeMatha’s temporarily anemic offense was not something that the crowd expected from a team that averaged over 45 points per game. The grumblings in the stands on the DeMatha side were only lightened-up by jovial and laid back attitudes of the students that still believed. You would have never thought that DeMatha and Good Counsel were ranked #7 and #23, respectively, in the country because many people with no affiliation with either school decided to make their way towards the exits.  Perhaps it was because this was DeMatha versus Good Counsel that just about every one of the three thousand or so on hand to watch the event stayed to the end, even if they crowded the gates looking over their shoulders from the skirts of the stadium lawn. The history in this match-up recently only suggests that there are no ordinary games between these two nationally recognized schools despite the fact that a Good Counsel win seemed to be a forgone conclusion going into the fourth quarter. 

The announcers on the field advised people in the stands that storming the field would not be tolerated, presumably to the student section of Good Counsel clad in white and raucous with anticipation of an upset victory. Essentially all the Falcons had to do was continue to run out the clock –something that they exhibited no difficulty in doing for most of game up until their opening fourth quarter drive. The task proved too difficult and the momentum changed on a defensive stop that had Stags on the sidelines waving their arms to get the home crowd back into the game. Chants of “defense” were rewarded when DeMatha’s scoring spell was broken, literally, on a 17 yard run by Marcus Coker. The DeMatha defense still wasn’t finished redeeming themselves because defensive back Michael Coley managed to recover a fumble. On the very next play from the line of scrimmage Marcus Coker struck again, darting past defenders and stiff-arming his way to a 38-yard touchdown run with only nine minutes left in the game.

DeMatha was down 17 – 21 and Good Counsel appeared to be finally coming to their senses enough to realize that they finally had a game on their hands. The Falcons clipped the field on three consecutive third-downs and found themselves on DeMatha’s 15-yard line facing fourth down and a yard to go. Instead of kicking the field goal, Good Counsel Head Coach Bob Milloy was intent on playing to win and opted to go for it. This would prove to be a pivotal decision because DeMatha’s defense stepped up once again to stuff a quarterback sneak and the Falcons turned the ball over on downs. I couldn’t see into the pile on the field, but I’m guessing that Bobby Caffes had something to do with it.

DeMatha moved the ball out to their thirty-six yard line using the hurry-up offense with just over two minutes left to play in the game. With time running out the Falcons probably expected DeMatha to try for a long pass and they loaded up their defense with defensive backs, pulling personnel off of the line. The Stags went against the conventional wisdom and ran Marcus Coker with Austin Bailey as the lead blocker, instead. What happened next was nothing short of epic because Bailey put a block on Pitsenberger and The Long Ranger saved the day for DeMatha by out-sprinting speedy Falcon defenders for a game winning, sixty-eight yard touchdown.

Good Counsel took over with a minute to play, but they don’t have Marcus Coker. The Long Ranger finished with three touchdowns and 213 yards on twenty-five carries making him the undisputed best running back in the Washington metropolitan area. No other running back around has more yards or more touchdowns this year but, more importantly, Marcus Coker showed a heart of a champion in this game. The result of his effort, along with all of the Stags who never quit, was that Good Counsel was completely stunned and unable to answer the call in the final minute with a score. By not kicking the field goal when they had the opportunity, the Falcons were forced to take huge risks that DeMatha was capable of defending.

After holding the Falcons on downs for a second straight time, DeMatha took a knee and notched another win and continued on their quest for national recognition. Stag pride is running high like national ranking hopes, and even if their destiny isn’t firmly in their own hands. There are at least nine high schools all around the country that have to eventually lose, while DeMatha remains perfect throughout the end of the season.

Nobody can predict the future, but wouldn’t it be something if this were the year that DeMatha claimed a national title in football?

GO STAGS!

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