Posts Tagged ‘Joe Casamento’

2017 WCAC Football Preview: SNAFU

October 5, 2017

The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference is arguably the toughest high school sports association in the United States of America.

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The toughest conference in America.

The WCAC has been at the forefront of ushering in a new era of recruiting that has shifted the landscape of secondary education, and football is no exception.

 

The tale of the WCAC in football, and really all the sports played is a story of the best of teams and the worst of teams.  The conference known for producing nationally ranked basketball teams in the same season is unique in that all programs at least enjoy the privilege of greatness by association.  Unlike basketball, which has exhibited relative parity over the years, WCAC football programs are worlds apart.  The schism between schools that made the unwavering commitment to compete on a national level in football and those that didn’t clearly strained the organization more than the other sports.  The result was a lopsided mess military guys call a SNAFU: systems normal all fouled up.

DeMatha, Good Counsel, Saint John’s College, and Gonzaga would all make headlines with their football programs by notching clutch wins in national upsets.  The four schools with the biggest football traditions in the WCAC continued to prosper, and all of them could be seen on national broadcasts via ESPN over the last five years.  The WCAC schools in Virginia were the first to secede and they ultimately identified football as the cause.  Bishop Ireton, Paul VI, and then Bishop O’Connell decided that they couldn’t compete with the rising talent level that all of the exposure generated for the Big Four.  Archbishop Carroll, Bishop McNamara, and Saint Mary’s Ryken were equally unnerved by the massive arms race occurring in football but hung on despite taking a lot of lumps.

The WCAC was forced to reorganize and update the rules to accommodate a stronger commissioner.  Next year they will unveil a two-tiered football schedule and they have expanded to include The Heights School, which is already competing in soccer this year.  The conference will be unified in the sport of football again, but in this interim year get ready to see more of just how we got this way in the first place.  The Big Four will continue to dominate, sometimes shuffling win and losses between each other but with seldom a loss to the other WCAC members.  The 2017 WCAC football season has already begun with Gonzaga pummeling Bishop McNamara 38-0 on Eye Street with a freshman starting at quarterback.

There just aren’t too many schools that want to face that kind of ability to reload on a yearly basis and the Mustangs (0-5) deserve some sort of award for courage.  Deeper programs like Gonzaga keep attracting Division 1 caliber players because of examples set by alumni like Kevin Hogan in the NFL.  This is just one example but the Gonzaga Purple Eagles (5-1) are still fighting to break into their first WCAC championship game since 2011.  Gonzaga is clearly a playoff team.  The Eagles were even cut off from competing for the tiny DC “state title,” but they haven’t won a WCAC football championship since 2002.  Gonzaga is our pick to finish fourth this year but if they stay healthy they can give anyone problems, for a spell.

Our Lady of Good Counsel will also be challenged to sustain their glory on the gridiron in 2017.  The WCAC’s winningest football coach Bob Milloy retired in 2016, after only the second season since 2004 in which they didn’t appear in the championship game.  Replacing legends is never easy but the Falcons (4-1), again, looked within their program and picked a gamer in head coach Andy Stephanelli.  Good Counsel is still solid and they have shocked teams in the area that might have forgotten that the Falcons were league champions in football from 2009-2012.  Still, after facing what should be the top two teams in the WCAC in the ensuing fortnight we believe that home field advantage should be enough to rattle Gonzaga on October 27.

The Saint John’s College Cadets are proof that the transition to elite status in football can come at a steep price.  SJC suffers from an identity crisis and every season that goes by seems to make it worse because they certainly sacrificed the most and have the least to show for it.  The Cadets opted to go the full-on Moneyball route, but cash hasn’t proven to be a panacea so far.  Program alumnus and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank financed a complete overhaul that included an injection of transfers and two head coaches at one point.  The Cadets have been knocking on the door in recent years with a lot of notable wins, but none against the defending WCAC champions in the last quarter century.

SJC was supposed to be overwhelming the league with their unlimited resources, but they have underachieved in WCAC football and they have to look back to the old Metro conference for their last title in 1989.  Head coach Joe Casamento is trying to change all of that by unleashing the new and improved program on the top teams in the nation but the cracks in the plan have been obvious.  The Christian Brothers are probably wondering if a 2-2 record was worth these changes but they haven’t given up the lofty expectations that they have for their football program.  School missions aside, whether or not superstar transfers can manufacture enough team chemistry for a title is the question that has relegated the Cadets to second place of late, despite attaining a national ranking in USA Today earlier this season.

The four-time defending WCAC football champion DeMatha Stags have also had a lot to do with that.  Head coach Elijah Brooks is now unquestionably the best in the league and his players desperately want to add to this budding dynasty.  The Stags lost their opening game of the season but have reeled off four straight wins since then, two of them shutouts.  The DeMatha defense hasn’t given up a score in the second half of a football game since Bishop Gorman got the better of them in August.  DeMatha (4-1) will open WCAC play against a Gonzaga team that already has three shutouts under their belt on October 6.  It is safe to say that everyone is coming for the kings of the WCAC and SJC and Good Counsel are good tests for the Stags to improve their national ranking in USA Today.

It is a long way down from the top and the rest of the WCAC will just be searching for ways to get by in football in 2017.   The faces and names might be old news but the essence of the conference is probably going to remain the same for a little while.

With a league that routinely produces heavyweights, the WCAC will realize that they were wise to err on the side of caution and let some teams sit the football slugfest out.  What we have this year are six teams competing for the WCAC trophy in football and the rest will rejoin the league next year when the new rules take effect.  DeMatha, SJC, Good Counsel, Gonzaga, McNamara, and Carroll could finish in that order during this abbreviated 2017 football season. 

It is worth writing that basketball seems to be the honey that kept Bishop Ireton, Ryken, O’Connell, and Paul VI in the WCAC hive.  (Those teams will all play independent schedules in 2017, and they won’t be in contention for a title in football this year.)  The overall risk-reward for student-athletes is better in basketball and the notoriety of the league has made it a pipeline to Division 1 schools, and beyond.  Football is still trying to find a balance in the WCAC, but the shadow of a more formidable conference is still going to bash each other with everything they have in the meanwhile.  The only thing that could stop this show is if the culture changes and WCAC football is on the rise.

As per usual, the traditional rivalry games are worth experiencing live.  The oldest, continuous football game in the country between Gonzaga and Saint John’s is on November 4.  Bishop McNamara is hosted by Archbishop Carroll on October 7.  Good Counsel will try to pull off an upset against DeMatha on Friday, October 13 at the PG Sports & Learning Complex.  Then DeMatha will travel to Saint John’s on Military Road on October 21.

Did we forget to mention that DeMatha vs Gonzaga is October 6?  We hope that you tune into DM Stags TV to check this one out free of charge on the NFHS NetworkThe Big Four are all ranked in the top ten in The Washington Post, so everyone should remember.  Follow the #WCAC hashtag on Twitter if the #DeMatha (live) hashtag is too lit.  We have you covered here at The Chronicles of Six, so always check for updates in our Sports category!  Let us keep connecting you to the reputable sources.

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Undefeated DeMatha Stags Football Champions 2016

November 20, 2016

Congratulations to the 2016 DeMatha Catholic High School football team on an undefeated 12 – 0 season and WCAC championship.  The Stags won their fourth Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title in football in as many years.

Check out the highlights (including select game video) that I compiled from Twitter here: .

This time it was against the Saint John’s College High School Cadets in extraordinary fashion and the win required a never-give-up attitude and late game heroics.  SJC quarterback Kasim Hill is headed to the University of Maryland next year and will undoubtedly start on their home field in the future but he was no match for this DeMatha team.  Hill hooked up with Ed Lee for three touchdowns in the first half and it looked as if he was going to will the Cadets to victory early on when they took a 19 – 14 lead into halftime.

The answer came late for the DeMatha Stags who are usually accustomed to dispatching opponents early by demoralizing them with a bruising running game.  Without the benefit of time on their side the DeMatha football team relied on gritty play to come from behind after the Cadets eventually amassed a fifteen-point lead.  Trailing 29 – 14 in the fourth quarter the team that never quit got a break when Kasim Hill was sidelined temporarily.  A botched pitch resulted in a DeMatha recovery and a quick score to make the tally 29 – 21 in favor of SJC.

The most ironic scene of the afternoon was a video of Saint John’s students chanting, “overrated!” to the DeMatha crowd during their eventual failure to win the contest.

On the ensuing play the Saint John’s head coach Joe Casamento, commanded the Cadets to defend against an onside kick but failed to plan for the deep kick.  The DeMatha special team unit recovered the ball at the SJC 1 yard line as it rolled untouched after a footrace between the aware and unawares.  DeMatha quarterback Beau English threw a short strike to honor man #10 Anthony Toro and suddenly the Stags were back in business.  DeMatha head coach Elijah Brooks sensed the momentum shift and opted to go for two but the conversion failed.

With the score at 29 – 27 the vaunted DeMatha defense came up big and forced a punt.  The Stags offense matched the phenomenal efforts of their counterparts by marching down the field and scoring again on a fade route to the running back Myles Miree.  After kicking the extra point this time Coach Brooks must have thought that the DeMatha football team already had all the makings of a win.  With the score 34 – 29 with only 1:05 left to play he wouldn’t have very long to contemplate it.  Myles Canton intercepted Kasim Hill on what would be the last play of the game and returned it all the way back to the SJC 1 yard line.

Calvin Ashley, a highly recruited offensive lineman for Saint John’s went down with an injury that left him unresponsive for a short period.  There were 29 seconds remaining on the clock when the game was decidedly over and both teams retired in prayer for the Auburn commit.  34 – 29 would be the final score and DeMatha completed one of the most memorable comebacks in school history with the total effort of their football team.

There are just too many football Stags to name and not enough time to give them all justice, but it will suffice to say that this is one of the finest sports teams that DeMatha has ever had.  In addition to notching multiple historic superlatives the 2016 DeMatha football team should also garner consideration for a share of a mythical national title with their unblemished record.  Their magnificent performance is rare when you consider their strength of schedule and conference format.  DeMatha took everybody’s best shot this year and achieved greatness by consistently rising to the occasion as a team.

A collection of individuals, no matter how talented, couldn’t beat this team.  Even when the odds were the longest and football fans were headed towards the exits, the 2016 DeMatha team showed that they were prepared to overcome adversity.  Coach Brooks should be proud that his DeMatha football team could do it in a way that is both reflective of the school and aligned with the ideals that the prestigious conference is supposed to stand for.  The WCAC might be headed for restructuring in football with a more powerful commissioner about to take the reins for the first time but DeMatha is already in great hands.

In a world where even high school sports are experiencing the influences of big money and corporate donors, Coach Brooks still managed to do things the DeMatha way and win.  Chalk another one up for the DeMatha Stags that bought into the system and toughed it out to keep the WCAC football championship trophy in Hyattsville.  The 2016 DeMatha football team certainly lived up to all of the hype and a celebration is surely in order.

DeMatha Versus St. John’s College Is Back On In High School Football

October 4, 2016

DeMatha bested St. John’s College 14 – 13 on Friday, September 30 and one thing quickly became clear: The rivalry between DeMatha and St John’s College High School (SJC) is back in full effect on the gridiron.  The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) has several high profile events in football despite imbalances.

(Full Game Highlights from utrhighlightvideos / YouTube)

DeMatha has not lost to SJC in football in almost a quarter of a century and the Cadets haven´t notched a championship in football since 1989.  While the recent football record has been lopsided in the favor of the DeMatha Stags it is now obvious that the Cadets are once again serious about challenging their supremacy.  Their last appearance in the WCAC football championship game in 2013 resulted in a 31 – 10 drubbing at the hands of DeMatha.  The Cadets haven’t been back to the WCAC final game since, but they have recently lured a myriad of skilled athletes with undeniably augmented facilities.

A recent influx of cold hard cash from Under Armour CEO and SJC alumnus, Kevin Plank, has propelled the Cadets into not just WCAC relevance but also national rankings.  The Cadets (4 – 2) came into the DeMatha game ranked in the top 25 in the USA and had previously been ranked as high as number 10 prior to their loss to IMG Academy in Florida.  As sports fans have witnessed at the university level there are often higher expectations and thus more pressure with such generous financial support.  SJC forced an alumnus out as head coach of the football program last year to make room for a renowned outsider in Joe Casamento.  A bevy of top prospect transfers bolstered the Cadets that have continued to make gains but the narrow loss on September 30 against the 3-time defending WCAC champions has created more questions than answers.

The talk around the WCAC is that SJC can’t be satisfied with anything less than total victory but it remains to be seen if all of the changes are going to be enough.  DeMatha is currently ranked number 4 in the USA and the Stags have their eyes set on a national title.  In order to complete that mission the Stags are going to need a little luck with absolutely no losses for the remainder of the year.  DeMatha has been fortunate with a 6 – 0 record but as they might recall from the previous year, a national title in high school football is no easy task.  Surprises can come from unexpected sources however the Cadets are all but assured a second chance at beating DeMatha in WCAC playoffs in a shrinking football league.

There aren’t too many WCAC schools that have had the stomach for this kind of high school football arms race.  Bishop Ireton and Paul VI have long since departed from playing the football schedule but still opted to stay in the WCAC for other sports.  When Bishop O’Connell of Virginia also dropped the sport there were only Maryland and DC schools left to play each other.  Three of the remaining six schools filled the holes in their schedules with national prominence in mind and that suddenly made wins against them hard to come by.  Gonzaga managed the feat last year in league play against the DeMatha Stags in 2015 and effectively ended the strongest national championship bid in recent years by a Washington DC metropolitan area school.

In order to even be considered for a national title the focus has to be maintained because every single game essentially becomes a national title game.  Contests against traditional rivals within the league are often the biggest pitfalls.  Even teams like Bishop McNamara and Archbishop Carroll have their hearts set on upsetting their more famous neighbors to make a name for themselves. There is a lot of good football to look forward to in 2016. SJC versus Gonzaga is one of the oldest rivalries in the history of the sport and DeMatha must play at Good Counsel to finish the WCAC regular season.  Both games will be played during the first weekend in November.

The grueling season will only get harder from there.  The WCAC playoffs and the pollsters are unforgiving in football and we all can’t wait to see how 2016 factors into ending these debates.

(Featured Photo A Stag In The Woods)