HYATTSVILLE, Md. — DeMatha has steadily increased its profile in recent seasons by taking on national teams and winning four consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles. The Stags’ road trip to Las Vegas to play three-time defending Super 25 champion Bishop Gorman is another leap forward.
Friday’s game, to be televised on ESPN (9 p.m. Eastern) is part of the GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff. DeMatha had a tune-up scrimmage last week, defeating St. Frances (Baltimore) 31-21.
“St. Frances is really good,” DeMatha coach Elijah Brooks said. “I’m not sure it will be enough (preparation) for Gorman, but it’s the best test that we could ask for around here that’s not in our league.”
There’s a bit of symmetry in that both teams come into the game with new quarterbacks who have had to bide their time behind established starters. At Gorman, Dorian Thompson-Robinson takes over for Tate Martell, an Ohio State freshman, who was 43-0 as a starter for the Gaels. Beau English was a three-year starter for the Stags, but he’s at Air Force this season so DeMatha’s starter is Tyler Lenhart, who threw for 275 yards in a half against St. Frances.
“I though our pass game was very efficient,” Brooks said. “Tyler Lenhart threw the ball well, more than 250 yards in a half and our receivers, Dominic Lyles, DeMarco Hellams and Rodney Patterson, showed well.”
Gorman had its own scrimmage, and Thompson-Robinson was solid in a defeat of Liberty (Henderson, Nev.). He was 11-for-11 with three touchdown passes and ran for a touchdown.
Brooks said a road trip three time zones away requires a little more planning:
The longest road trip DeMatha has taken in the six seasons Brooks has been the team’s head coach is when it won at American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) in 2015.
“It’s one of those experience things,” said senior DeMatha defensive back Dub Tallandier, who has committed to Pitt. “Guys before us played in big games and we witnessed them doing it, so now it’s our turn and it gives us motivation. The trip to (Plantation) was a lot of team bonding and those type of trips help on the field.”
Even with its personnel changes, Bishop Gorman will be a tough first-game test for DeMatha.
“The first week is always tough,” Brooks said. “You don’t know what to expect. A lot of it is adjusting on the fly. Our focus is controlling what we can control. Bishop Gorman hasn’t won 54 in a row for nothing. They are who they are and we are who we are. We are going to prepare to the best of our ability and not let the show be a distraction.”
The full GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff Schedule:
Friday, Aug. 25
St. John Bosco (Calif.) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), 7 p.m., ESPNU
DeMatha (Md.) vs. Bishop Gorman (Nev.), 9 p.m., ESPN
Saturday, Aug. 26
Tulsa Union (Okla.) vs. Broken Arrow (Okla.), Noon, ESPN
Saraland (Ala.) vs. Heard County (Ga.), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
Bartram Trail (Fla.) vs. Cartersville (Ga.), 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
IMG Academy (Fla.) vs. Chandler (Ariz.), 10:30 p.m., ESPNU
Sunday, Aug. 27
Wayne (Ohio) vs. Pine-Richland (Pa.), 1:30 p.m., ESPN