OLNEY – St. John’s College High School was running out of football players.
When the injury-riddled Cadets came to Kline Stadium to face Good Counsel High School on Oct. 18, the team from Washington, D.C. was missing several of its key players. St. John’s Head Coach Joe Casamento had to substitute freshmen and sophomores in place of injured upperclassmen. A few of the offensive linemen that took the field against the Falcons had never even played those positions.
The Cadets had their work cut out for them against a formidable Washington Catholic Atheltic Conference (WCAC) opponent. The Falcons were 6-1 and fresh off of a five-overtime victory over Gonzaga. Good Counsel fans, students and alumni packed the stands an hour before kickoff to cheer for the Falcons and celebrate Senior Night.
Casamento called it “guts.” Determination to push past adversity and battle against injury. Determination to stop Good Counsel on the final drive that could have been the game-winner. Determination to beat the Falcons in a seesaw, nail-biter of a game that tested both teams until the final seconds ticked away. The final score was 34-31, in St. John’s favor.
“I think sometimes when you have opportunities in life, you make sure you give it everything you’ve got, and then you have no regrets. If that had gone the other way here, but we had played as hard as we can, what can we say?” said Casamento. “Sometimes, you get the dog, and sometimes the dog gets you.”
For much of the evening, it appeared as though the game was going to go the other way, and the pendulum was going to swing in Good Counsel’s favor. After the Cadets scored two consecutive touchdowns to take an early lead in a matter of minutes, the Falcons delivered big plays on both sides of the ball to score 21 unanswered points and steal the lead away.
Good Counsel running backs Sy’Veon Wilkerson and Sean Aaron served as their team’s bread and butter. The senior and junior worked in tandem to get the ball down the field. Aaron punched in a 12-yard touchdown to capitalize on the long run, while Wilkerson muscled the Falcons down to the red zone and then added the 1-yard exclamation point.
Good Counsel’s go-ahead touchdown came courtesy of the defense. The Cadets fumbled the ball, and Falcons defensive end Kristopher Jenkins recovered. St. John’s tried to chase Jenkins down, but the University of Michigan commit was off to the races.
The Falcons defense also unleashed an aggressive barrage on St. John’s starting quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava. The defense sacked the senior several times, but he still threw two touchdowns before exiting the game in the fourth quarter due to a shoulder injury.
The Good Counsel defense intercepted Maiava to open both quarters in the second half. Maiava’s first pass attempt of the third quarter was tipped, and the ball was caught by defensive back Jason Moncure.
The second interception came at the Good Counsel 8-yard line. St John’s trailed by five to start the fourth quarter, and the Cadets were looking to cap off their long drive with a touchdown. An offensive miscommunication by St. John’s resulted in Falcons linebacker Harold Miles standing all alone in the vicinity of where Maiava was looking to throw. Miles took the pick 38 yards in the opposite direction before being tackled.
There was enough time left on the clock for the Cadets to receive two opportunities at the game-winning drive. The first attempt ended in a big fourth-down defensive play by Good Counsel as St. John’s backup quarterback Wyatt Hagan was sacked for a loss.
After a three-and-out by the Falcons, the Cadets offense walked onto the field again with three minutes left to play. This time, senior wide receiver Rakim Jarrett gained just enough separation from his defender to unleash an 83-yard run down the right sideline. A pass interference call on the Falcons set the Cadets up in the red zone; from there, running back Antwain Littleton leaped over the pile to give the lead back to St. John’s. Wide receiver Caleb Coombs completed the two-point conversion attempt.
“I knew that the team needed a play and a big-time player to make big-time plays,” said Jarrett of his performance. “They tried to give me something quick to enhance my abilities to make a play. So I had to go out and see what I had to do to help the team win.”
Good Counsel got the ball back with 62 seconds left. However, a delay of game penalty and defensive pressure from St. John’s stunted the drive at the 40-yard line.
“There were a lot of plays in this game where if we make the play, we win easily,” said Good Counsel Head Coach Andy Stefanelli. “Unfortunately, we didn’t, and they made a big play at the end.”
“The last two minutes of the game, we should have had a first down,” said Wilkerson. “But other than that, we fought hard. That’s all I can say. We fought hard no matter what.”