Good Counsel Coach Andy Stefanelli looked for Justin Jackson in the team huddle after a 38-31 comeback victory over No. 2 Gonzaga. It’s not surprising that it took him and the team a few seconds to find the quiet backup cornerback, one of the Falcons’ heroes Saturday. After all, Jackson hasn’t started a game this year and isn’t used to the spotlight.
When his teammates found him, they let out a loud cheer for Jackson, who intercepted two passes, including one he returned for a touchdown, to lead No. 5 Good Counsel to a thrilling victory over the host Eagles in Northwest Washington.
“I didn’t think I was going to get in today,” Jackson said. “I just stuck to what I practiced. What I do in practice, I just did in the game and just executed. It is a blessing, to be honest.”
Jackson played almost every defensive snap after starting defensive back Cameron Hart went down with a cramp in the third quarter. His assignment was to cover Gonzaga wide receiver John Marshall, a Navy commit who caught two touchdowns in the first half and was tearing up the Falcons secondary.
But after Jackson got on the field, Marshall was limited to just two catches, both of which came on the final drive with time winding down.
“[Hart] really wasn’t 100 percent with his cramps,” Stefanelli said. “[Marshall] is a heck of a football player, and Justin is the next man up. You put a guy out there who hasn’t started a game this year, and he came up big. That’s for sure.”
Running back Sy’Veon Wilkerson led the Falcons offense with 262 rushing yards, including a 67-yard touchdown run to put the team ahead 38-28 with 1:36 remaining.
“I just had to end it,” Wilkerson said. “We played as a team. If we play together, we’re always going to come on top. Period.”
Wilkerson suffered an ankle injury in the first week of the season and was fully healthy for the first time Saturday, Stefanelli said.
“We had a plan to use a rotation, and Sy’Veon went in and got the hot hand,” Stefanelli said. “Sy’Veon gives us that breakaway ability. He is a home run threat.”
In the Falcons’ first conference game of the season, players who haven’t seen much playing time propelled the team.
“The kids cheer for each other. I think it’s genuine. They just genuinely want each other to do well,” Stefanelli said. “I’m very proud of that because that’s not always the case in a football team. Sometimes there’s selfishness, but in this team it’s truly a family-type atmosphere.”
After beating the No. 2 Eagles (6-1, 1-1 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference), the Falcons (5-1, 1-0) will play No. 1 St. John’s on Friday in a game to be played at Catholic University and aired on ESPN2.
“We’re in the gauntlet right now, as I tell the kids,” Stefanelli said. “We played that tough out-of-conference schedule to prepare us for it. It’s WCAC football. It’s going to be hard every week. We just got to keep grinding through it and get some breaks and hopefully come out on top.”