It was a pair of would-be storybook moments: one that was soon overtaken, another that never was. Sunday night’s 2019 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) football championship felt like a build-up for the back-and-forth fourth quarter, which would ultimately complete two Good Counsel comebacks for a 16-14 win.
Of course, it wouldn’t be as meaningful a loss if not for the way the Cadets got there in the first place. After stumbling through one of the toughest out-of-conference schedules is the nation, St. John’s ran through their WCAC schedule, winning five straight games, including a comeback over rival Gonzaga, a semifinal against DeMatha, and, only five weeks prior, a final-minute comeback against the same Falcons team that now celebrated over the Cardinal logo at Catholic University’s midfield.
The first half was a defensive struggle. Junior running back/defensive lineman Antwain Littleton recorded the only score, while Good Counsel came close to matching with a pass in the endzone through the hands of the receiver.
Then the pressure started to build. Almost every snap of the third quarter was on the St. John’s side of the field, with the only exceptions being Good Counsel offensive plays. In an attempt to get out of their own end, St. John’s began to challenge the Falcons’ imposing defensive backfield. This would be their downfall: QB Sol-Jay Maiava ’20 threw two interceptions returned inside the Cadets’ 15-yard line, resulting in 13 points for the Falcons.
A late touchdown by wide receiver/defensive back Rakim Jarrett ’20 gave a one-point lead to St. John’s and hope to their fans. But in the end, it came down to two field goal attempts: one converted by Good Counsel from 25 yards out, and another by St. John’s, short into the wind from 42 yards.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Casamento tried to put things in perspective. “I’ve watched every NFL team lose a game. I’ve watched Super Bowl teams lose a game. This ain’t the biggest thing in their life,” he said. “We fought, we played hard, we gave everything we had…but it’s not about them or the game, it’s about family. These kids fought for each other and they love each other, and that’s all I care about.”
In their final game, Casamento reflected on his seniors. “We played [some] of the best teams in the country, and they held it together. A coach can’t make everybody love each other. I have so much pride for them and what they do.”
The championship also demonstrated good plays by stars with more time on campus. Running backs Littleton and Jamar Curtis ’22 were the driving force of the offense, and defensive lineman Taizse Johnson ’21 continued to apply pressure to the Falcons’ backfield.
“St. John’s doesn’t go away because some senior class graduates. It’s been here since 1851, right?” Casamento said. “Well, the same thing is true in a football program. It’s not going to go away because seniors leave. They’ve had the experience of being with some guys that were great and [have them] show them some things that they can do to make them better. That’s a huge thing.”
In the end, Casamento assured fans that “we’ll be good. We’ll be good again next year.”