The Washington Post

Stags give upstart Eagles a reality check with rout

- BY KYLE MELNICK

Moments after the public address announcer called Dematha running back Tovani Mizell’s touchdown run late in Friday night’s game, the Stags’ fight song blared over the speakers at Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex in Landover.

Dematha, long the premier program in Prince George’s County, was headed to another win — 26-0, over Rock Creek Christian Academy — and the familiar tune marked another celebratio­n for the Hyattsvill­e private school.

It was also a reminder of the strength of Dematha’s tradition. No. 9 Rock Creek Christian Academy, an up-and-coming program from Upper Marlboro, entered the season with visions of shaking up the local hierarchy. But No. 3 Dematha restored order.

“There’s a lot of history behind it,” said Dematha defensive end Jason Moore, an Ohio State commit. “It’s a lot of responsibi­lity to stand up to it. It’s definitely an honor to put [the jersey] on and represent Dematha the best way I can.”

With a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference-best 24 championsh­ips, Dematha (1-1), founded in 1946, is arguably the D.C. area’s most accomplish­ed program. Rock Creek (0-2) played its inaugural season last year after Coach Andre Kates and most of his players transferre­d from nearby National Christian Academy. The Eagles finished 7-1 against a national schedule.

Rock Creek is attempting to maintain that success with four returning starters from last season. In an area surrounded by establishe­d private schools, Kates has prioritize­d building ties with players and their families to attract talent. He grasped the importance of relationsh­ips while coaching National Christian in 2019, when Kates asked a player why he works hard in warmups and walk-throughs.

“Maybe my mom will come back into my life,” he responded, “if she sees me in a newspaper.”

Every week, Kates and his 17 assistant coaches call players to discuss life. Those same coaches ride a bus to local youth games every Saturday in green-and-gold apparel.

Kates raises fundraisin­g money via local businesses and team carwashes. He paid thousands of dollars for a players’ lounge, which includes four TVS, Playstatio­ns, Xboxes and a 120-inch projector screen, which displays college and NFL highlights of players Kates coached.

“I promise to God, if we ever came up on money like the St. John’ses and Demathas and Good Counsels and them have,” Kates said, “we will be the No. 1 team in this area.”

To build that reputation, Rock Creek must surpass Dematha, which itself is aspiring to regain status as the area’s top team. The Stags last won a WCAC title in 2016 under Elijah Brooks, who’s now Maryland’s running backs coach.

Dematha gained a lead four minutes into the second quarter Friday when linebacker Nathaniel Owusu-boateng sacked Rock Creek’s quarterbac­k in the end zone for a safety. The Stags settled into a rhythm and led 19-0 after quarterbac­k Denzel Gardner’s touchdown pass to wide receiver Gerald Campbell three minutes into the second half.

Mizell, who scored the gamesealin­g touchdown from 10 yards out with 5:32 remaining, moved to College Park from Florida on Aug. 1. The junior Georgia commit soon learned the prestige of his new school.

As Dematha players lined up at midfield for postgame handshakes, “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled played on the home speakers.

“Honestly, it’s crazy because I didn’t realize how many people came out of Dematha,” Mizell said. “It’s definitely a powerhouse, and I’m talking about from all sports. It’s a great experience. Knowing that could be me one day, it’s crazy.”

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