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Saturday, October 4, 2008

On the frontlines at DeMatha v. Good Counsel

This Thursday, I attended the nationally televised high school football game between No. 10 DeMatha and No. 2 Good Counsel. I wrote this story for class:

Last night’s game between Washington-area powerhouses No. 10 DeMatha and No. 2 Our Lady of Good Counsel was sold out. The match was broadcast to a national audience on ESPN2. Recruiters from Penn State, Maryland and Syracuse showed up among other big names. Thousands showed up to the small school in Olney, Md., to watch titans clash.

However, the Good Counsel Falcons (5-0) took the air out of the much-ballyhooed contest in the first quarter by scoring 28 unanswered points on their way to knocking off the overmatched Stags, 42-21.

“I think we stepped up,” said senior running back Caleb Porzel, who finished the night with 124 yards and three touchdowns. “We showed ourselves and the nation that we can hang with anyone – we should be a nationally-ranked premier team.”

DeMatha (3-2) looked virtually helpless as its defense was shredded by Porzel’s blazing speed for touchdown runs of seven, 38 and 56 yards. Added to a touchdown off of a senior linebacker Jelani Jenkins fumble recovery, the Stags found themselves mired in a four-score deficit less than 13 minutes into the game.

If not for a miraculous 61-yard touchdown pass from Tom Chroniger to Emmanuel McPhearson in coverage midway through the second quarter, DeMatha would’ve been held scoreless in the first half entirely by a sturdy, Jenkins-led Falcons defense.

Two more touchdowns in the third quarter gave the DeMatha squad some momentum. Chroniger had a 15-yard rush for a score and found Lewis Young in the end zone with a 10-yard pass within a six-minute stretch.

But during the ensuing possession on fourth down, the Falcons faked a punt and kicker Mark Hamilton ran for 21 yards and earned 15 extra yards on a facemask penalty against DeMatha. The drive was capped by Jenkins running untouched into the end zone six plays later.

DeMatha missed another score by the slimmest of margins: Receiver Jeff Knox was stopped after a catch on the one yard line with 1:47 left in the game on fourth down. But even a touchdown would’ve been futile at that point.

It was a disappointment for the defending WCAC-champion Stags, who find themselves looking up in the division for one of the first times in a while.

“We just didn't come out and play our game today,” Chroniger said. “We didn't make a pass, I didn’t throw it right, just small things. You come out without intensity, it's hard to beat somebody."

Although Porzel was bothered during the game by calf cramps and coming off an ankle injury, his injury concerns didn’t prevent him from shining in the national spotlight, even beyond the shadow of top-10 prospect and teammate Jenkins.

“It was kind of a mental thing for me,” Porzel said. “I was kind of scared at one point, but once I hit the first touchdown, I was like ‘this is going to be a good night for us.’”

For DeMatha, by the end of the first half, the game became less about winning and more about having self-respect.

"We came out a little flat in the first half, and I felt our priority was to keep our heads in it,” DeMatha senior tight end Jeremiah Mathis said. “I felt like we came back out in the second half and we fought. If there was anything that we needed to do in the second half, it was fight for it.”

The two teams have made a habit of meeting in the WCAC championship. Good Counsel senior quarterback Tyler Campbell, who completed all of his seven passes for 177 yards, said he had witnessed the last two championship losses to DeMatha, and although he savored the revenge, he acknowledged it’s not over.

“I can’t tell you how badly we want to win a championship this year,” Campbell, a senior, said. “We beat them last year in the regular season, but they beat us in the championship. We want to win it this year.”

The rival teams always seem to be looking ahead to the next matchup between the two schools. DeMatha receiver Michael Milburn was already thinking about it after the loss.

“If we play ‘em in the postseason, we’ll get ‘em,” he said.

Tell me what you think. For a REALLY great story, read Josh Barr's recap. I'm an amateur, but he shows himself to be the pro in this story.

Also, some notes:

- Porzel is as fast as anyone, but you can't help but notice he's probably 5'5 or 5'6. At Maryland, he'll probably return kicks, but we'll have to see if he grows.
- Jenkins is an absolute manbeast. He was a dominant force on defense. You can see why the schools want him. His speed and power were on display as starting fullback as well. I think he's well outside of Maryland's league.
- Fridge was at the game. Whether he was looking for new recruits or trying to hang on to the ones he is up for debate.
- Some receivers on DeMatha actually looked very good. Milburn has great size and leaping ability and McPhearson just tore through the middle. They both could've shown softer hands at times, though, and drops were actually a big factor in the game.

Signing off...

Photos from gazette.net, rivals.com

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