By: Katherine Fominykh
High school football is finally back, folks. While teams in Northwest added new talent to their respective rosters, St. John’s, Gonzaga, and Maret School are the three teams you should watch this year. The 2018 season is already underway, and these three teams came out of the gate clicking on all cylinders.
St. John’s (2-0)
Where do we go from here? The Cadets clinched their first WCAC title since 1989 by devastating Gonzaga 30-7 last fall, so they’re expected to return with an air of dominance. It was a feat, also, that earned St. John’s the sixth spot on MaxPreps’ national top-100 rankings and USA Today.
After going 9-2 last year, St. John’s is returning running back Keilan Robinson, who is already committed to Alabama, and four-star wide receiver Rakim Jarrett, but will benefit from the much heralded arrival of Hawaiian dual-threat quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava, who solves the conundrum of having to replace outgoing helmsman Kevin Doyle. Now a junior, Maiava rose to football’s world radar when he was in eighth grade and received a scholarship from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
Comparing the Cadets to their Washington, D.C. contemporaries, though, is a little bit apples-and-oranges. St. John’s embarks on a national schedule this fall that includes powerhouses IMG Academy and Miami Central and the cream of Georgia, Marietta. The Cadets hosted the John’s Creek at home, blanked them 49-0, and kept the ball rolling down in Hoover, Alabama, where they beat the Bucs 42-14.
That doesn’t mean that their slate of D.C. opponents is a basket of kittens, though. St. John’s closes out the season with back-to-back battles, DeMatha and Gonzaga, the same team they brought down last year for ultimate victory. For now, though, St. John’s is off to an impressive 2-0 start. And you can’t look away from that.
There’s nothing quite like flying close to the Sun, but instead of basking in its warmth, getting burned. The Eagles came close to the WCAC title, only to be dropped by St. John’s. However, an 8-4 record is nothing to sneeze at. This was a team that defeated DeMatha, 26-20, last October.
The Eagles opened the season with same oomph, dragging Gilman down 47-0 on Aug. 24. With a slow start, the two were scoreless heading to the second frame. Gonzaga flattened them by halftime, picking up a hefty 27-0 lead. They did the same in week two, steamrolling Bishop Sullivan Catholic, 38-0. This time, though, there was a 28-0 lead at halftime.
With just one season behind him, Class of 2021 quarterback Caleb Williams already has the nationally-recognized starpower to get it done. Per 247Sports, the 6-foot, 190-pound quarterback is already fielding offers from Alabama and Florida State, to name a few.
Maret School (1-0)
Last year, Maret finished with a 7-3 record. But the loss of outside linebacker Devonte Gordon, who signed with Wake Forest is nothing to get around. Maret also lost cornerback Jamal Glenn. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Glenn earned his spot at Navy because he could be put anywhere on the field and do his job well. In fact, he led the Frogs with 269 rushing yards last season and four touchdowns.
Maret has a ways to go before it can reclaim its 2016 DC State Athletic Association Class A Championship glory. This year’s team won’t make that trip easy, but coach Mike Engelberg believes it’s within the realm of possibility. He’ll turn to four returning starters: running back/linebacker Elijah Parks, middle linebacker/guard Jack Greenburg, wide receiver/defensive back Keon Eady, and quarterback Satchel Parker.
The Frogs’ roster is light on experience — with only four seniors, there’s a learning curve, for sure, and a sizable junior contingent should help. They’ll also be switching from more of a running offense to one that prefers to throw, placing more pressure on Parker to keep afloat against difficult D.C. defenses. But Maret didn’t have any problems punching the ball into the end zone against Parkside High School on Saturday. The Frogs cruised to a 47-26 victory over the Eagles to give them a 1-0 start. But Maret will have more stiff competition this season.
At the Events D.C. Kickoff Classic in mid-September, Dunbar will be the Frogs’ first real challenge of the year, a match-up that hasn’t occurred before. It’ll be there that Maret’s mettle, and what kind of force they’re going to be, will be put on display.