Ty Lenhart never thought about jumping ships. Even after losing the starting quarterback job as a freshman, sophomore and junior — the all-important season for a college recruit — Lenhart wanted to stay at DeMatha. And not only stay, he had aspirations to forge his own legacy.
After three years of waiting, Lenhart finally gets his chance Friday night … on the road … against Bishop Gorman, the second-ranked team in the nation … and it’s nationally televised on ESPNU.
“This whole offseason, my focus has been don’t make it bigger than it is,” Lenhart said. “It’s a big game, but you cannot make it bigger than it is. You know, it’s on ESPN, there’s going to be a bunch of people there. But it’s just a game. It’s a high school football game, and I’m going to go out there and do my job; everybody else is going to do their job. It’s the ultimate team sport. Everybody is going to come together, and if they do their job, then we’re going to be successful.”
That quote virtually sums up the cool and collective demeanor of Lenhart, who answers questions with a level head and — at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds — stands in the pocket unflinchingly.
Sure, the three-year wait was a tedious stretch. Any eager quarterback with Lenhart’s capability would feel that way. With a deeper vision in mind, Lenhart plugged away and learned from title-winning quarterback Beau English.
“Me and Beau, I always say our relationship was special,” Lenhart said. “We were really tight. Beau taught me a lot and Coach Brooks has taught me a lot. Playing behind him, I didn’t think of myself as a backup quarterback, you know? I prepared every game as if I was a starter, went through practices as if I was a starter. So, the transition hasn’t been big, at all. Obviously, being the senior and being the leader of the team is a big deal. A lot of guys feed off my energy. I have to be aware of that and lead at all times. It’s been a really smooth transition. It’s been fun to just take over the reins and carry this team on.”
When English emerged as the starter, not once, but twice, schools reached out to Lenhart, offering a starting job and chance to win a title elsewhere. Lenhart said his no thank yous and carried forward.
“First time I met Coach Brooks, I wasn’t originally going to come here,” Lenhart said. “I met with the coaches, came and shadowed at DeMatha and fell in love with the place. I knew that it was special from the beginning. The situation was what it was.
“I mean, it’s like a life lesson. That’s how it’s going to be in college, that’s how it’s going to be anywhere. And, you know, I’m not the kind of guy who is going to leave my team and go somewhere else. I decided to battle it out, and a lot of people, coaches, recognized me for that. I never thought about transferring once. I was always 100 percent DeMatha. … That’s one of my main things since day one. Being with Coach Brooks was my main thing. I’m going to be with him until the end.”
Even without a varsity start on his ledger, Lenhart has offers from Cornell and Bucknell. He also went on a visit to Indiana this summer and has drawn interest from Boston College and Northwestern.
Over the offseason, Lenhart sharpened mechanics and hit the books, studying every crevice of the Stags offense and breaking down every defensive scheme he could get his hands on — all for the greater benefit of the longed opportunity at stake.
“He’s done a great job of waiting his turn,” DeMatha coach Elijah Brooks said. “All the guys know he has the ability. He automatically commands that respect. … Ty’s a DeMatha guy. He could’ve easily transfer elsewhere and been a three-year starter there.
“But he wants to be a part of something special. I think it’s fitting to have [Bishop Gorman on ESPNU] for his official opener. Those are going to be memories that are going to last him a lifetime.”
Last Friday against No. 2 St. Frances in scrimmage play, Lenhart threw for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 11-for-14 passing — in one half.
When the game was tied at 14-14, Lenhart and the Stags got the ball back at their own 20-yard-line, with 1:09 remaining in the first half. With starters still in on both sides of the ball, Lenhart carved through the Panthers’ secondary and marched down to the 12-yard-line with five seconds still on the clock, and plated the go-ahead 27-yard field goal.
He’ll take the same mindset from that go-ahead drive into Friday night: Keep things in proportion and focus on the task at hand.
“That’s what we’ve been focusing on,” Lenhart said. “Don’t worry about the buzz. Let that excite you, yes. It’s a big game, it’s going to be awesome. But you can’t make it bigger than it is and let that get to your head. You just have to play the game.”