“Could you tell our hands were full today?” Head Coach Joe Casamento said Saturday after St. John’s 21-14 comeback win over Marietta (GA).
The Cadets, who had an unexpected week off after their game against #1-ranked IMG was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, started out struggling in the first quarter, giving up a touchdown on the first possession of the game and failing to score all quarter.
“Marietta’s great. They’re a super skilled team,” Casamento said after the game. “We were trying to play and cover them in zone, try and confuse the quarterback, but [Marietta QB Harrison] Bailey did a great job. He attacked us and cut us to pieces.”
The two teams traded possessions, including a fumble by each inside St John’s 20 yard line. Marietta eventually brought the ball to the St John’s 5 yard line with 4 minutes left in the half, and it looked like St John’s would be down by at least 17 heading into halftime.
Then defensive back Quinten Johnson ’19 intercepted the ball in the endzone and returned it to the Marietta 18, setting up a WR Rakim Jarrett ’20 touchdown reception.
“I tried to bait him, because I saw he didn’t see me,” Quinten Johnson said after the game. “I was just looking to get into the endzone; too bad I got tied up at the end of the play.”
Now down by only 7 points, St John’s felt a swing in momentum. “They punched us in the mouth [in the first half],” Quinten Johnson said. “But we’re a second half team, we’ve been saying that all year. The longer the game goes, the more of a chance we have to win, so we just keep pushing.”
Defensive back Mordecai McDaniel ’20 said the team “started to come together, we started to pick up the intensity.”
Receiving the second half kickoff, the offense stuttered at first, with QB Sol-Jay Maiava ’20 throwing three straight incompletions. But he found Jarrett for a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game.
“Sol-Jay looks at me when a play needs to be made, so I had to do what I had to do to make a play,” Jarrett said.
After that, the Cadets relied on their senior running backs, Ron Cook Jr. and Keilan Robinson, to move the ball on offense.
“This was their game today,” Maiava said of his running backs. “They took it over.”
Big plays by both brought the ball into the red zone, setting up Maiava to jump over a pile at the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown.
“We held our focus throughout the second half,” sophomore lineman Taisze Johnson said after the game. “We didn’t let turnovers get to us, we didn’t let any bad plays to us; we made sure we kept our composure.”
Quinten Johnson said, “We tried to change things up, we adjusted to the game. When we really got going, we got rolling.”
This was their first game without highly scouted linebacker Mekhail Sherman ’20, who tore his ACL in St John’s five-overtime win over Miami Central (FL) two weeks ago.
“We’re a team, we’re a family, so it’s just next man up,” Casamento said. “Somebody gets sick, somebody’s hurt, then somebody’s gotta step up. He’s out there, doing what he can do for us today; he’s a great leader, emotionally keeping us engaged, staying on guys, advising guys. You do what you do. It’s a lot like life, you just adapt and overcome and that’s what this team does.”
Tre’mon Morris-Brash ’19 added, “If the next man steps up, that’s all that matters…and that’s what he [sophomore linebacker Christian Taylor] did, he stepped up.”
The Cadets improved to 4-0 on the season, entering the game ranked #5 by USA Today. They head to St. Louis, MO, next week to take on Christian Brothers College High School, who are ranked #1 in the state by MaxPreps.
“We’re gonna take the momentum from this win, and we’re gonna take it on to next week, to Saturday,” Taisze Johnson said.
Quinten Johnson added: “[The] team mentality is win. It’s just next game at a time, we’re trying to go undefeated and win a championship.”