Michael Branthover, the senior do-it-all special teamer for DeMatha, made the difference tonight. With about a minute and a half remaining in the game, he stepped onto the field calm, cool, collective. Beating the Falcons on their home turf would make a statement – DeMatha is a force to be reckoned with still..
“This is the best DeMatha football team I've seen and we won’t be losing the rest of the season," Branthover claimed.
If falling short to Good Counsel in last season’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game 14-7 wasn’t enough motivation for DeMatha to come firing on Dancel Field Friday night, a 3-2 record and .500 play in divisional play was.
McGregor’s team had not lost two conference games in season dating back to 2002. Already the Stags have been bested by the likes of Gilman and Gonzaga, and a second consecutive loss may have put their postseason aspirations in jeopardy. Instead, a valiant team effort could have turned their season around.
“It was really important. It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Jacob Siwicki said. “We’re big rivals, and really the teams don’t like each other. So it felt really good. I think we’ll see them again in the [WCAC] championship.”
Siwicki entered the contest averaging just south of seven yards per carry. Tonight was no different. One hundred and thirty-seven yards amassed on the ground by the senior running back led DeMatha’s rushing attack, which totaled 243 yards.
“Tonight we were fortunate to be able to move the ball on the ground, and we had some pretty good holes. Our running backs did a nice job,” DeMatha head coach Bill McGregor said.
The Stags also received clutch play out of their signal-caller Nikolay Uherek. After being unable to produce a score in last week’s matchup versus Gonzaga, Uherek redeemed himself with a 131-yard, two touchdown night, including a 71-yard score to Darien Harris as the third quarter expired. His resurgence was indicative of his entire team.
“We looked so bad last week it was unbelievable,” McGregor acknowledged, his Stags losing 32-25 to Gonzaga. “I think this week they believed in each other. I thought we really came together and played as a football team. We played a full four quarters. I was just very proud of the effort that we gave. This week we had our backs to wall, and we bent but didn’t break.”
Three touchdown tosses between Good Counsel quarterback Zach Dancel and Stefon Diggs, two of which came in the second half, kept the Falcons nearby throughout the evening.
Coming out of halftime, Dancel led an opening drive where he rushed for 31 yards, passed for 38 yards and capped it all off with a 15-yard score through the air.
In the fourth quarter, his team trailing by seven, Dancel piloted a series in which he connected with Dancel for two long passes, and took advantage of three DeMatha penalties. Two penalties surfaced on fourth downs, including an unusual attempt to stop the clock by the Stags’ defense, which resulted in a delay of game. Dancel capitalized, scrambling to find his favorite target in the end zone towards the back left pylon.
But even over 200 yards contributed from the dual-threat quarterback was not enough Friday night.
“I thought [Dancel] played great. He did all he could do,” Good Counsel head coach Bob Milloy said of his quarterback’s effort. “We didn’t block real well up front, and they’re big, powerful guys and they’re a good team. They played better than us tonight. They deserved to win”
“We know we’re as good as they are. It was their night tonight. We’ll probably see them down the road sometime,” he added.
Good Counsel’s defense, which had only allowed 26 points in their four wins, gave up a season-high 31 points to DeMatha. Now at 4-2, and stomaching their first loss in conference play, the Falcons must move on to their next challenge, which comes in the form of Paul VI next Friday night at home.
As for DeMatha – McGregor and his team return to their home field to face a 2-3 St. John’s team. But a season, as they say, is not a sprint – it’s a marathon. As the Stags try to put their two losses behind them, they’re already working on a new winning streak. “Teams win and we’ve got a really tough game this Friday night,” McGregor said. “We have to come out and go to work again.”
Other News and Notes:
* Michael Branthover, who kicked the game-winner over Good Counsel Friday night, said he’s being recruited by Maryland and Virginia Tech, and has already received an offer from Akron. His coach, Bill McGregor, said: “He’s a great kicker. I’m trying to get [Maryland] to recruit Michael. He put a number of kickoffs in the end zone. He’s just an excellent kicker and punter and hopefully he can play Division I football.”
* Both Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin were on hand to watch the game.
* WR Blank Countess: 3 REC, 29 YDS
* RB/WR Stefon Diggs: 4 RUSH, 32 YDS; 6 REC; 116 YDS; 3 TD
* RB Dorian O’Daniel: 5 RUSH, 11 YDS