In 2019 Good Counsel’s recipe for success had called for: a heavy dose of dominating defense, a sprinkle of special teams magic and a dash of explosive offensive plays.
On Sunday night, the Falcons used those ingredients to cook up a WCAC championship.
Trailing 13-7 late in the fourth quarter, St. John’s Sol-Jay Maiava connected with Rakim Jarrett on a 38-yard touchdown to give the Cadets a 14-13 lead with under two minutes remaining.
Following Gonzaga’s last-second Hail Mary victory last year, the late score appeared to signal a second consecutive storybook ending for the league title game — and it did, just not for the Cadets.
Following the ensuing kickoff, GC had the ball on their own 30-yard line. With their backs against the wall and time running out, they set up a screen for Sy’veon Wilkerson,
“We’ve been working on screens all year but our defense is so good at defending it, it never worked in practice,” said coach Andy Stefanelli, “ but we kept practicing it and it paid off tonight."
Wilkerson picked up two crucial open field blocks from tackle Landon Tengwall and guard Xavier Ricks, opening the door for him to race 51 yards up the left seam placing the Falcons in position for a game-winning field goal.
Good Counsel ran the ball twice more, milking the clock, before sending in placekicker, Vince Errigo with 18 seconds remaining. The Falcons snap was on target, holder Ben Cuellar placed the ball and Errigo nailed the 32-yard field goal, putting GC ahead for good 16-14.
The Falcons offense spread its wings when it needed to Sunday night, but as was the case all season, Good Counsel’s stole the show. Trailing 7-0 midway through the third, Caleb Dennis intercepted Maiava’s pass and returned it inside the 5-yard line, setting up GC’s first score.
“We were in man coverage and had two safeties over the top”, said Dennis. “Coach Plez [position coach Josh Pleasant] always works with us on the ‘slip technique’, so when he beat me inside, I cut under it."
Two plays later, Wilkerson followed the lead block of Cole Hefflin into the end zone, tying the game at seven.
Moments later, the Falcons defense turned over the Cadets again. This time it was Jalen McNair’s interception and return that gave Good Counsel excellent field position. Sean Aaron’s touchdown run gave GC a 13-7 lead early in the 4th.
“This feels amazing,” said McNair. “Everybody counted us out. All week, all we saw on social media was ‘St. John’s, St. John’s, St. John’s’ and that motivated us."
The Falcons held the high-powered SJC offense in check for a majority of the night. Mitchell Melton and Kris Jenkins Jr. consistently pressured Maiava, while defensive tackles George Wolo and Brandon Roberts clogged up the interior making it difficult for the Cadets to run the ball.
“Our defense is unbelievable, they’ve been great all year. We knew they’d carry us, so we leaned on them,” said Stefanelli “It was incredible, we knew it would be a battle. That’s a great team we were able to nip out there at the end. Congrats to St. John’s on a great season — this was just a tremendous game. This was a true team victory for sure”.
The championship is Good Counsel’s first since 2012.