Good Counsel and Gonzaga meet Friday night in the semi-final round of the WCAC playoffs. Despite the Falcons being the two seed and home team, many prognosticators already have the Eagles penciled into the championship game.
And that’s all right with Good Counsel.
Despite an impressive season (7-3), the Falcons have often flown under the radar, receiving less recognition — if not respect than their WCAC counterparts. Good Counsel is a blue-collar team who prides itself, on the whole, being greater than the sum of its parts. While superstar talents around the league such as Marshawn Lloyd, Rakim Jarrett or this week’s opponent, Caleb Williams, rotate weeks featured on Sportscenter, the Falcons “5-star offensive player is an offensive tackle (Landon Tengwall),” as GC head coach Andy Stefanelli said.
In 2019, Good Counsel has been consistent if not spectacular. In out of conference play, their list of quality wins includes No.12 Friendship, No. 24 St. Mary’s Ryken and Mt. St. Joseph’s (9-2). In conference, they impressed in a back-and-forth game against top-ranked St.John’s. Good Counsel led the Cadets 31-27 late, before falling 34-31in the final moments. The week prior, they defeated Gonzaga 42-35, in a 5OT thriller.
However, due largely in part to their lack of household names, when potential WCAC champions are debated in barbershops, Facebook or twitter, the Falcons are rarely mentioned.
“That’s Good Counsel," Stefanelli said. “That's our m.o. as a football program”.
Stefanelli believes he has a group of young men who don’t mind being overlooked, so long as they come away with the desired result.
“We have a lot of really good players,” said Stefanelli, “We don’t get all the recognition that I think our guys deserve. But as a team and a program, that’s what we want. We want a bunch of hard-working kids who get after it, get it done and put the team first. The individual accolades will come, and that's great—if they do— but if not, that’s ok too. We’re about putting the team first”.
The Falcons are built like a team of yesteryear. A tough, hard-nosed bunch, they believe in the values of quality special teams play, running the ball and stopping the run. Their offense has been in-consistent at times but focusing on all three tiers of the game has allowed GC to be successful.
“Coming into the season, we knew we were going to have a senior-laden defense and with our offense being so young, we knew we’d have to lean on them,” said Stefanelli. “Early on our offense took a little criticism, but instead of letting it get us down, we took it as a positive. We have a great defense and we take a lot of pride in our special teams.”
During overtime of the Falcons win over Gonzaga their own offense found its’ stride. Sean Aaron, Lejay Hatcher and Sy’Veon Wilkerson took over. Although not glamorous, GC demonstrated how potent they could be when their ground-and-pound attack is working.
“We are who we are, we’re going to run the ball and hopefully the offense will continue to improve as we move along,” said Stefanelli.
The GC defense has rarely let them down. With the right combination of effort/energy guys and high-level playmakers, Good Counsel’s D has proven to be one of the top units in the WCAC. Brandon Roberts and George Wolo specialize in stopping the run. With the assistance of linebackers, Harold Miles and Caleb Dennis, the Falcons force opposing offenses to operate behind the chains consistently, setting up obvious passing situations. Their defensive back field excels in man coverage, allowing Mitchell Melton and Kris Jenkins to wreak havoc off the edge.— an uncomfortable equation for any quarterback.
“One of the things we’ve been good at is getting pressure on quarterbacks. It affects the game at all levels, even with the top guys. If you watch the NFL, Tom Brady is not as effective when he has guys in his face”.
As a group of 11, operating as one, the Falcons defense is formidable no matter their opponent. In their first match-up, GC found ways to make Caleb Williams uncomfortable during regulation— they held the Eagles to seven points through the first 4 quarters. In overtime, Williams caught fire, ac-counting for 4 of his 5 TD’s on the night. Good Counsel knows they can’t allow Williams and the Eagles attack to pick up where they left off.
“They have a very good offensive line and Caleb is a tremendous player; he is going to make his plays, he certainly has against us, but we have to attempt to keep Caleb somewhat in check, so he’s not throwing it all over the yard."
If the boxing adage, “styles make fights” is applicable on the gridiron, Gonzaga is the opponent the Falcons want to face. They have won three of the last four match-ups. Their grit and team effort allows them to go toe-to-toe with the Eagles' physicality.
“The games with Gonzaga are chess matches. They’re always very close. They know us, we know them. Let’s strap it up and see who can make the most plays on Friday night," said Stefanelli.
Good Counsel and Gonzaga are set for another classic battle. Twitter and Instagram may have already formulated their opinion as to who will advance, fortunately for everyone in attendance, the game will be decided by two well-coached collectives of student-athletes on the football field, not social media.