Battle-tested Cadets shift focus to WCAC play

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St. John’s ended their out-of-conference schedule Friday night, in a Homecoming loss to USA Today No. 1 ranked Mater Dei (CA) 53-24 at Catholic University, their fourth straight defeat to a ranked team this month.

The Cadets got off to a hot start, but cooled off quickly. Their opening drive, a 3-and-out, was saved by a roughing the kicker penalty on the punt, putting their offense back on the field. Capitalizing on the mistake, St. John’s offense was able to drive down the field with a long completion to wide receiver Rakim Jarrett ’20 and a scramble by quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava ’20 before the touchdown pass to Caleb Coombs ’21. 

Running out of time in the half, the Monarchs worked quickly and put together a touchdown drive to make it 20-7. But the Cadets would not go into the half quietly, scoring two touchdowns in the final four minutes, a quarterback run by Maiava and a pass to Jamar Curtis ’22 that was assisted by the defense posting their first 3-and-out of the night. 

The half ended 21-20, and spirits were high as this was the first time all year the Monarchs were facing a deficit.

But the second half did not start as favorably as the first. Mater Dei drove down the field in their opening drive, then recovered a Maiava fumble inside the Cadets own 25 yard line and scored again.

In a matter of a few minutes, it was 33-21, and it would only go downhill from there. The Cadets would gave up three more touchdowns and answer only with a field goal. 

Junior running back Antwain Littleton left the field with an injury in the third quarter, returning in the fourth only to exit again in the fourth. Head Coach Joe Casamento said on Monday that he has “been nursing an ankle problem” and that he would be ready in two days. 

Despite the 0-4 month, the team feels the experience was worthwhile.

Senior Mordecai McDaniel, who plays defensive back and wide receiver, said the team was “learning [that] we gotta stick together when things get hard.” Defensive lineman Tre Williams ’20 told The Washington Post that “I have no regrets facing the teams we’ve played.”

When asked what he thought the team had learned over the past four weeks, Casamento said, “Well, that’s when you learn something. When you win, maybe you got talent, you’re not really tested. I think we learned a lot of things from this, playing the number one team in America. If you’re playing a great schedule, you’re gonna lose some games.” 

Casamento added that the Mater Dei coach came across and was talking to us about how well we play, because that was the first time they had ever been behind.

Some believe that the difficult schedule will help St. John’s in their WCAC schedule. 

The Cadets have a bye week before visiting Bishop McNamara (MD) and Good Counsel (MD). After another bye, they host DeMatha (MD) before rounding out the year at Catholic University against the Gonzaga Eagles.

Lineman coach Joe Petraiuolo told The Sabre that “our main goal is to win the WCAC.” McDaniel feels that the team is ready to face that goal.

“I feel pretty confident about our abilities to go into the season and I feel like we[’re] on the road to the championship.”

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