On a cold and rainy Friday night, St John’s defense prevailed as the Cadets defeated WCAC opponent DeMatha 13-7.
Senior running back Ronald Cook Jr. scored twice in the first half, stepping up for injured running back Keilan Robinson ’19. “Ron’s a great back, and we’ve known that,” Head Coach John Casamento said after the game. “He’s probably the most underrated player in the conference.”
Both teams traded possessions in the first quarter, with the Cadets failing to convert a fake punt but forcing a turnover on downs on DeMatha’s next possession. Then, the defense broke through, stripping the ball from Stags QB Eric Najarian. Defensive lineman Tre Williams ’19 recovered the fumble and returned it to the DeMatha 12 yard line, setting up Cook to score on the next play.
“I’m thinking touchdown originally, I’m thinking touchdown,” Williams said of the play after the game. “But I’m just glad I got to set up my team for a touchdown.”
Neither team was able to get past their opponents’ 30 yard line after that, until linebacker Isaiah Jordan ’20 recovered a fumble forced by Taizse Johnson ’21 that set up the Cadets on the Stags 31 yard line. After a scramble by QB Sol-Jay Maiava ’20 resulted in a first down, Cook ran through tackles into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night. A mishandled snap in the rain on the extra point kept the score at 13-0.
DeMatha would answer quickly, returning the kickoff into St John’s territory and benefiting from the Cadets’ third unsportsmanlike penalty of the half to take possession at the 32 yard line with less than five minutes left. Stags running back Marshawn Lloyd ran it in from 14 yards to make it a one score game.
The next half was all defense. Maiava struggled to find his receiving core, throwing an interception to Joshua Wallace on a Rakim Jarrett ’19 attempt for the Cadets’ only turnover.
Building momentum, the Stags strung together a drive down to the Cadets’ three yard line as the third quarter was coming to a close. After gaining two yards on first down, DeMatha was stuffed on four straight goal line plays, including an additional down for an offsides call and a jumping attempt on fourth down.
“Yeah, they’re pretty good, aren’t they?” Coach Casamento said after the game. “I thought they did a great job. That’s what they do. They’re tough.”
After a long but ultimately scoreless St John’s drive, DeMatha threatened one last time. With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Stags carried the ball toward midfield, converting a fourth-and-one along the way. But the Cadet defense came out on top, forcing a turnover on downs with less than 30 seconds left to secure the 13-7 win.
Afterward, Cook had high praise for his teammates on the other side of the ball, who posted their fifth defensive second-half shutout of the season. “I had a lot of confidence in my defense. I really thank them, I’m really grateful to have them on my team.”
Casamento added: “They’re really good, we got a lot of kids over there that we’re very proud of, and they did a great job tonight. I don’t know what Marshawn [Lloyd, DeMatha RB] got, he’s a great back. I don’t know what he did get, but to hold him the way they did, that was really impressive.”
Discipline was an issue for the Cadets, as they took 15 penalties during the game, including three unsportsmanlike penalties and five penalties in the third quarter alone. “We didn’t have a very good composure apparently, ‘cause we had about a 150, 160 yards in penalties,” Casamento said. “I think that was the most frustrating part for us, was the penalties. If we don’t get more than 15 yards in penalties, we can beat anyone in America. But that was awful.”
“It’s football. You just gotta play football, and you just gotta learn how to deal with it. We didn’t do a good job, but we’ll be better next week.”
DeMatha, now 6-2 (2-1 WCAC), visits Bishop McNamara (3-6, 0-3 WCAC) to wrap up their season. With this win, St John’s (8-0, 3-0 WCAC) secured a home semifinal in the upcoming WCAC championship semifinals. The Cadets wrap up their season next week at Gonzaga (7-2, 1-2 WCAC).
Williams’ thoughts on the next game?
“Eagle meat baby, I’m hungry for it.”