High School

Top 25 High School Football: Gonzaga tops list for Week of Sept. 30

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Chad Ricardo

Top 25 High School Football: Gonzaga tops list for Week of Sept. 30

Good Counsel vs. Friendship lives up to its Game of the Week billing. DeMatha dominates and the Eagles continued to fly.

Here’s how the rest of the top 10 fared:

1.  Gonzaga (5-0) | Last: Win (48-7) vs. Plant (FL) | Next: Leesburg (FL), 10/4

When a team exhibits excellent offensive line play, the cohesion amongst the defensive unit and plays mistake-free football, they have an opportunity to be good. Add exemplary coaching and arguably the top quarterback in the country to the mix and there’s potential for greatness.  Caleb Williams and the Eagles pummeled Plant Friday night. Critics who claimed last year's WCAC championship was a fluke are growing quieter by the day.

2.  DeMatha (4-1) | Last: Win (36-0) vs. Life Christian Academy (VA) | Next: Friendship, 10/4 

The Stags steamrolled Life Christian. The one-two punch of Marshawn Lloyd and Sieh Bangura was too much for LCA to handle. DeMatha’s defense registered its third consecutive shutout. The convincing victory sets the stage for what promises to be a bruising battle with No. 13 Friendship.

3.  Quince Orchard (4-0) | Last: Win (64-0) at Churchill | Next: Clarksburg, 10/4

The Cougars continue to impress. Much has been said about record-setting running back Marquez Cooper, and deservedly so, but the QO squad is no one-man band. The Cougars defense continued its lights-out play. Led by standouts Charles Bell VI and Demeioun Robinson, QO smothered Churchill, holding them to 69 total yards.

Brian Plummer threw for 249 yards and four touchdowns.

4. Good Counsel (4-1) | Last: Win (21-12) Friendship | Next: St. Mary’s Ryken, 10/4          

The Falcons found a way to hold off Friendship. In a game filled with big hits and stellar defensive play, Good Counsel outlasted the Knights. A blocked punt late in the second quarter gave GC a 7-0 lead at the half. Quarterback Chase Williams connected with Jaylen Dotson for a third-quarter score, but it was linebacker Caleb Dennis who closed the door with a game-clinching pick-six. 

5. Wise (4-0) | Last: Win (51-6) vs. Bowie | Next: at Bladensburg, 10/5

Wise beat up on Bowie behind stellar performances on both sides of the ball. Jayden Sauray threw for 219 yards and four touchdowns while Dorian Strong and Jalil Farooq tallied 158 and 149 all-purpose yards.

6. Westfield (4-0) | Last: Win (23-7) vs. Stonewall Jackson | Next: at Woodson, 10/4

The Bulldogs defeated previously unbeaten Stonewall 23-7. The Raiders entered the match-up averaging over 40 points per game but were stymied by the Westfield defense.

7. Freedom (4-0) | Last: Win (47-0) at Battlefield | Next: at Forest Park, 10/4

Freedom got out of the blocks fast and refused to relent beating Battlefield by a final score of 47-0.

8.  Stonebridge (4-0) | Last: Win (68-9) Freedom (South Riding) | Next: at Rock Ridge, 10/4

The Stonebridge community came out in droves to support their team and the Bulldogs did not disappoint. Stonebridge scored 52 by halftime and defeated Freedom (South Riding) by a final score of 68-9.

9. Broad Run (4-0) | Last: Win (56-7) vs Urbana | Next: Loudon County, 10/4

Quarterback Mitch Griffis may have had the most impressive individual performance of the week-end completing 23-of-28 passes for 344 yards while rushing for 53 more. Senior wide receiver Romy Miner notched seven catches for 152 yards.

10. St. John’s (2-4) | Last: Loss (53-24) Mater Dei (CA) | Next: BYE

The Cadets led the top team in the country 21-20 at the half — that lead quickly dissipated. In his first three possessions of the second half, Alabama commit Bryce Young went 9-for-11 for 171 yards and three touchdowns.  Despite sparks of brilliance by Rakim Jarrett and a run so impressive by Antwain Littleton that DMV native Wale showed it love on social media, St. John’s dropped its fourth consecutive game — the last three to top 5 teams. They have a bye before gearing up for WCAC play.

Here’s how the rest of the top 25 fared:

11. Natl Christian Aca (5-0) | Last: Win (2-0 FF) at Eastern | Next: at St. Thomas More, 10/5
12. Northwest (4-0) | Last: Win (41-14) vs Richard Montgomery | Next: at Gaithersburg, 10/4 13. Friendship (3-2)| Last: Loss (21-12) at Good Counsel | Next: at Dematha, 10/4
14. North Point (3-1) | Last: Win (49-7) vs Chopticon | Next: Leonardtown, 10/4
15. Landon (2-1) | Last: Win (13-6) vs Woodberry Forest  | Next: at Maret, 10/4
16. Damascus (2-2) | Last: Win (37-0) vs Einstein | Next: vs Seneca Valley, 10/4
17. South County (4-0) | Last: IDLE | Next: at Annandale, 10/4
18. Tuscarora (4-1) | Last: Win (31-7) at Briar Woods | Next: at Stafford, 10/4
19. McNamara (4-1) | Last: Win (27-16) vs. Arch Bishop Carroll| Next: vs PVI, 10/4
20. Oakdale (3-1) | Loss (30-17) vs Linganore | Next: at Elkton, 10/4
21. Lake Braddock (3-1) | Last: Win (49-10) vs Marshall | Next: at Oakton, 10/4
22. Georgetown Prep (2-2) | Last: Win (42-0) vs Riverdale Baptist | Next: Benedictine, 10/4
23. Dunbar (3-1) | Last: IDLE | Next: H.D. Woodson, 10/4
24. Linganore (5-0) | Last: Win (30-17) at Oakdale | Next: Walkersville, 10/4
25. Arch Bishop Carroll (4-2) | Last: Loss (27-16) vs Bishop McNamara | Next: IDLE

NEXT 5:

26. Woodgrove (3-2) | Last: Loss (48-28) vs Musselman | Next: IDLE
27. Maret (4-0) | Last: Win (41-0) vs Parkside | Next: Landon, 10/4
28. Paint Branch (3-1) | Last: Win (39-7) at Blair | Next: at Blake, 10/4
29. Flowers (2-2) | Last: Win (42-0) vs Parkdale | Next: at Bowie, 10/4
30. Ryken (3-2) | Last: Win (34-14) vs Catholic | Next: at Good Counsel, 10/4
31. Lackey (4-0) | Last: Win (13-6) at Westlake | Next: Calvert, 10/4

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WCAC Football Semifinal: St. John's beats DeMatha

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Chad Ricardo

WCAC Football Semifinal: St. John's beats DeMatha

Four consecutive losses have a way of wearing on the psyche of a team. In those moments, character is defined and leadership is needed to right the ship. St. John’s is using the adversity it faced earlier in the season to get better, and their growth was on full display during their 34-20 semifinal victory on Saturday over the Stags.

“The journey is so much more important than arriving at the summit,” said coach Joe Casamento. “Everything we’ve been through has made us tougher. It’s made us tighter [as a team]”.

The Cadets defense stuffed the run and suffocated DeMatha receivers.

Their offense controlled the time of possession and moved the ball at will. St. John’s appeared determined to take advantage of opportunities in the passing game, getting the ball to Rakim Jarrett early and often and when senior quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava dropped a 26-yard dime into the hands of a diving Caleb Coombs, it gave the Cadets a 10-0 lead in the first. 

“We knew they played man coverage with one-high safety so we just tried to take advantage of their defense,” said Rakim Jarrett. “Caleb made a great catch and Sol-Jay placed the ball where it needed to be”.

St. John’s continued its dominance to start the second. Maiava spread the ball around to multiple receivers, marching the cadets down the field. Antwain “Baby Bus” Littleton’s 6-yard touchdown run pushed the Cadets lead to 17-0.

Late in the second, DeMatha’s freshman quarterback Cameron Edge ignited the Stags comeback. A pass interference call against the Cadets extended DeMathas drive and with seconds remaining in the half, the Stags went play-action and Edge found Sieh Bangura for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 17-7.

The Stags drew closer in the third, following a goal-line stand, Marshawn Lloyd ran off-tackle 82 yards for a score, trimming the Cadets lead to 17-14. After Littleton and Lloyd exchanged touchdown runs, the Cadets once comfortable lead was cut to 24-20 early in the fourth.

St. John’s did not panic. The Cadets did not flinch. Their seniors have been through the fire this season, and they were determined to see the Cadets through. 

“The more you get tested, the more you have to deal with losses, the more important your time together becomes,” said coach Casamento. “ I have so much respect for our seniors. I appreciate how much they’ve grown”.

Each time the Stags fought back into contention, St. John’s answered. When their backs were against the wall, their upperclassman made plays.

Led by Maiava, St.John’s methodically moved the ball down the field. Sol-Jay found Littleton out of the backfield for a key first down and capped the drive with a 12-yard keeper, beating Cozziah Izzard to the edge and finding the end zone for a 31-20 lead.

Trailing by two scores and the clock winding down, DeMatha faced a 4th and 20, Cameron Edge was immediately pressured and sacked by senior captains Mekhail Sherman and Taizse Johnson. The two embraced and jogged to the sideline in unison.

With the victory, the Cadets advance to the WCAC championship game vs. Good Counsel. It will be the third title game their senior class will have participated in and they will have a chance to win their second title.

Good Counsel beats Gonzaga to secure spot in WCAC championship

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Chad Ricardo

Good Counsel beats Gonzaga to secure spot in WCAC championship

The Good Counsel Falcons flew past the Eagles on Friday night en route to a 44-14 victory, making them the first to secure their seat in the WCAC championship game.

The Falcons set the tone early. Their defense forced a Zaga 3-and-out on the Eagles first possession and Good Counsel followed it up with a Sy’veon Wilkerson touchdown run. That sequence of events would be foreshadowing for what was to occur throughout the night. 

Early in the second quarter, Caleb Williams drove the Eagles down the field, capping off the drive with a spectacular 16-yard scamper. The touchdown gave Gonzaga a 7-6 lead, one that would be short-lived and the only lead they’d have all night.

Wilkerson scored again on the Falcons next possession and quarterback Chase Williams connected with Sean Aaron in the corner of the end zone just before the half, extending Good Counsel’s lead to 20-7 at the break. The Falcons offense, which has struggled at times this season, had found its’ wings.

“The defense and special teams carried us early in the year,” said coach Andy Stefanelli. “We were seeing improvement— it just wasn’t showing up on the scoreboard all the time. Tonight, the offense played great. It all finally came together."

Gonzaga looked to flurry to start the third. They recovered an on-side kick and drove the ball into scoring position. When the Good Counsel defense tightened, the drive stalled ending in a Mitchell Melton sack of Caleb Williams, which forced a turnover on downs.

The Falcons flustered the 5-star quarterback all night. They pressured him relentlessly, blanketed his receivers, which led to coverage sacks and limited the lanes by which he could run.

“Caleb is a great player,” said Stefanelli. “The plan was to try and contain him. We didn’t rush him every time— we sent some blitzes, but because he’s just as dangerous running as he is passing the ball, so we were just focused on containing him."

After a field goal increased the GC lead to 23-7, Mitchell Melton made another big play, this time deflecting a Williams screen pass, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Ronnell McCorn.

With the physicality of the Falcons offensive line beginning to wear down the Eagles, Wilkerson ran off-tackle, untouched 25 yards for his 3rd of 4 touchdowns on the night. He attributed his success to the blocking of his line and receivers.

“We played a complete game on offense and I feel good about that,” said Wilkerson.

Good Counsel outscored Gonzaga 24-0 in the decisive third quarter, turning what began as a hard-fought battle into a blow out victory. Few picked the Falcons to win, nonetheless to do so in such a convincing manner. Despite entering the contest with Gonzaga as the higher seed, many pundits predicted the Eagles would fly to the championship game. Few outside of the GC locker room thought they’d advance—a thought that wasn’t overlooked by the Falcons.

“We talked about it all week. We knew nobody believed in us,” said Wilkerson, “nobody has believed in us all year, so we came out to prove everybody wrong again."

Good Counsel will have one more opportunity to silence their doubters; next week in the WCAC championship game.