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‘It’s destiny:’ Good Counsel wins WCAC title as kicker makes the one that matters

Good Counsel’s Vince Errigo made the game-winning field goal with 14 seconds left to lift the Falcons to the WCAC championship over St. John’s on Sunday at Catholic University.
Good Counsel’s Vince Errigo made the game-winning field goal with 14 seconds left to lift the Falcons to the WCAC championship over St. John’s on Sunday at Catholic University. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Starting at about 7:42 p.m. Sunday at Catholic University, there was time as it ticked and time as Vince Errigo perceived it. The next 28 minutes “felt like hours,” he said. The three seconds after that felt longer. There are few feelings in sports lonelier than the one that befell him for 28 minutes and few better endings than the one that followed.

For 28 minutes it seemed possible — even inevitable — that this would end cruelly for Errigo. And then his Good Counsel teammates brought him one of football’s rarest and luckiest gifts: a second chance.

With 14 seconds left in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title game, and No. 3 Good Counsel behind No. 1 St. John’s by the swerve of Errigo’s missed extra point, the senior kicker drilled a 32-yard field goal to win the championship, 16-14, the school’s first since 2012.

At some point after that, under the influence of the inconceivable, brains stopped forming memories. “It’s all a blur,” Errigo said. “I don’t even know, man,” running back Sy’Veon Wilkerson marveled. He could not remember what happened amid the chaos, and Coach Andy Stefanelli added, “I don’t know that I can either.”

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To refresh their memories: Errigo stood at the 22-yard line with 18 seconds left and stepped back, back, back, left, left. The ball was off center, just inside the left hash mark. Ben Cuellar knelt to hold the snap. Errigo swung his leg and watched for a split-second. He turned, raised his arms and ran downfield before he even saw the ball go through.

“It’s destiny,” said senior Jackson Stefanelli, Andy’s son.

Errigo and Jackson Stefanelli have been friends since first grade. Stefanelli played football and Errigo always played soccer until last year, when Good Counsel (9-3) needed a kicker and Jackson wondered if his friend might be interested.

One day last summer, Errigo tried kicking footballs at school, and Andy Stefanelli asked his son how it went. The scouting report: “Well, Dad, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he’s got a really strong leg.” Good enough. They wondered, Jackson says now, if Errigo would ever make a championship-winning kick.

Errigo became one of the best kickers in the area this season, but for 28 minutes Sunday he didn’t feel like one. After Good Counsel broke a 7-7 tie with a touchdown, Errigo hooked the extra point left, which seemed even more damaging later when the Cadets (7-5) scored and made their extra point to lead by one.

“I thought I ruined the game,” he said. “I know St. John’s is a good team, so I thought I ruined it.”

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Sure, teammates and coaches gave him words of encouragement. He did not remember any of them afterward. He paced the sideline, waited, practiced: back, back, back, left, left.

Then, the gift: Wilkerson broke free on a screen pass for 51 yards into the red zone. The Falcons called two more run plays and then sent on Errigo. Even then, he felt nervous. Everybody insisted afterward they knew he would make the kick. He was not sure.

Over and over the public-address announcer had reminded fans to stay off the field after the game, but they were not keeping anybody away on this night. Crowds of blue and gold swarmed the Falcons, and everybody had a hug for Errigo. Wilkerson found him and shouted, “This is you!” His lonely, 28-minute wait was over, and here came his friends to celebrate the moment, just one moment, that will last forever.