Top: DeMatha senior quarterback Eric Najarian (Michael Smith/The Prince George’s Sentinel.
Bottom: DeMatha running back Marshawn Lloyd (Michael Smith/The Prince George’s Sentinel
HYATTSVILLE – DeMatha Catholic High School has had one of the best athletic programs in the country for the better part of a century. Over the past fifteen years, DeMatha has won ten Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) championships, with four of those championships coming within the past five years.
Despite their success during that span, they were in unfamiliar territory last year. Last season, DeMatha posted their worst regular season record in over a decade with a 6-5 record.
The Stags went on to the playoffs but were knocked out in the first round by eventual champion St John’s College High School. It was their first time not making it to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) championship game since 2011.
Even though their backs are against the wall, DeMatha believes that they can regain their top spot in the WCAC and vie for another championship trophy.
“I think it’s all in our preparation,” DeMatha Head Coach Elijah Brooks said. “We obviously set our goals high at the beginning of the year. We want to win a conference championship, but the margin of error in the WCAC is extremely thin.
“Everything we do from film study to practicing hard every day to execution, it all matters when you go against talented teams. We have the talent, and we have the personnel, we have the coaching staff to do it.
“Now we just have to come out and be ready to go. We want to win a conference championship.”
DeMatha will enter the season losing five starters on defense and on offense. However, the most significant transition will be senior quarterback Eric Najarian taking over as the starting quarterback position after starting the second half of the season last year.
After last season’s starting quarterback Tyler Lenhart completed seven of 19 passes for 54 yards in a game against Gonzaga last season, Najarian took over as the starter. This time, Najarian will start the season as the man under center.
“Nothing changes for me as far as the preparation for this season because when you’re a backup quarterback, you have to prepare as a starter,” Najarian said. “When you get thrust into a starting role, you have to be prepared when that time comes.”
In seven games last season, Najarian threw for 655 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions and completed 50 percent of his passes. Despite this being his first season as the starter in training camp, Najarian has high hopes for this unit for the upcoming season.
“I really want us to play as a team and come together with what we have done so far in camp,” Najarian said. “Our goal is to really just go 1-0 every week and figure the rest of it out as it goes.
“I think I need to just lead the team, push them every day and just get better. I know we have plenty of playmakers and I need to just get the ball in their hands. We have a great offensive line up front. I really look forward to this season with this team. Our strength is just coming out here every day as a team. I honestly don’t see weak point for us.”
One of Najarian’s targets this season will be senior wide receiver Jermaine Johnson Jr. Johnson lead the team in receiving yards (400) and receptions (23) last season and believes this team can get back on track this season if they work together.
“My expectations for this year are for us to be a team, actually work together and to complete the goal of going 1-0 every week,” Johnson said. “We are competitive. Everybody wants to be on that starting lineup. Everybody wants to be better than the next person. I believe if everybody on the team has that same mentality that could go a long way for us and probably give us a better outcome than the season last year. We just need to communicate.”
Senior safety DeMarcco Hellams has been with the DeMatha varsity football team since he was a freshman.
In 2019, he will take his talents to the infamous and arguably the best college football program in the world, the University of Alabama. Hellams wants to leave a lasting impression his senior year and show Alabama why they made the right choice in recruiting him.
“The goal is to win a WCAC championship,” Hellams said. “The difference this year from last year is that we have a better mindset and we don’t feel entitled to win a championship. I know last year we didn’t win it, but before that, we won four straight.
We just got to come in and work hard so what happened last year won’t happen again. It helps that we’re all brothers and we hang out with each other off the field and that we care for each other on and off the field. No matter how good we think we are, there is always room for improvement. We got to make sure that everybody is doing their job and that nobody is trying to be a hero. Just sticking to the game plan and making plays when the time comes.”