Fresh off upset win, St. John’s has much bigger test against DeMatha, history

WASHINGTON — We had a very close vote for our first DMV Game of the Week, but we ended up with what promises to be an entertaining grudge match between two longtime rivals, with both local and national implications. We’ll be up in Northwest D.C., just off Rock Creek Park, on the campus of St. John’s College High School as the Cadets (3-1, 1-0 WCAC) host the DeMatha Stags (4-0, 1-0 WCAC) Saturday afternoon.

When the season opened a few weeks ago, DeMatha had a chance to send an early message to the high school football world that D.C. football could hang with the big boy power programs from the traditional recruiting hotbeds. They hosted Miami’s Central High School, coming off a 14-1, Florida State Title season, ranked second in the country.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Stags scored twice to take a 10-0 lead in to the half, only to rampage out of the locker room in the second half. By the time Central finally got on the scoreboard nearly halfway through the fourth quarter, DeMatha led 38-0. A final garbage time touchdown made a 38-14 final look far more respectable than the actual result. DeMatha was on the map.

Central shut out its next three opponents by a combined score of 90-0, helping back up the Stags’ dominance.

DeMatha, meanwhile, took their act to Florida, where they survived American Heritage, 23-22, after nearly letting a 16-3 halftime lead slip away. Heritage scored what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown with 53 seconds remaining, but a pair of penalties pushed the extra point back, and it missed wide right.

The Stags earned another nice road victory with a 32-12 win over Pennsylvania’s La Salle College High School, then sent a strong message in their first local matchup, blanking a then 2-1 St. Mary’s Riken team 49-0.

They occupy a spot in the top 10 in every major ranking, from MaxPreps (4) to USA Today (7) and are easily the top-rated team in the entire mid-Atlantic region.

Oh, and they’ve beaten St. John’s 20 straight times. But you wouldn’t know if after what happened last year.

The Stags survived a 21-14, overtime slugfest in Landover. The Cadets rallied late to tie the game, but couldn’t put the finishing touches on the comeback. And while DeMatha has carried the torch of local hype all year, St. John’s made the loudest statement it could last week, scoring an upset, road win in conference over highly-touted Good Counsel, 29-23 in triple overtime.

MaxPreps has St. John’s ranked third in its Maryland rankings (which include D.C.), behind only Baltimore’s Gilman School and, of course, DeMatha. While the Cadets are certainly home underdogs, Saturday will be just the Stags’ second game away from Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex.

St. John’s proved it can win a hard-fought game in overtime against a quality opponent last week. With the prospect of shedding the ignominy of the 20-year streak with a landmark win, can the Cadets come through on their home field?

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