St. John’s wide receiver Rakim Jarrett lined up at the Good Counsel 41-yard line and held a steely gaze toward the back of the end zone. There were 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter of Friday’s clash between the top-ranked Cadets and the second-ranked Falcons, and St. John’s led by 14. Jarrett understood one more touchdown would effectively seal the outcome.
Jarrett looked to his left at St. John’s quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava. He wanted the ball.
Flashing open on the right side, Jarrett caught his quarterback’s pass and took it 41 yards down the sideline for the final touchdown of the night. The sea of red in the stands for the Cadets roared. St. John’s found itself at the top once more: still undefeated, still the team to beat.
“I took it upon myself,” Jarrett said after the Cadets’ 31-10 win at Catholic University. “I know that big players make big plays, and so I did it for my team.”
The Cadets (7-0, 2-0 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) increased their winning streak to 14 and put themselves one game closer to repeating as WCAC champions.
While St. John’s defeated a major opponent, it still has to face DeMatha and Gonzaga to close the season. It’s too early to predict exactly how the WCAC playoff seedings will shake out, but the Cadets are the front-runners.
Good Counsel, which was coming off a 38-31 win over then-No. 2 Gonzaga in its WCAC opener last week, fell to 5-2, 1-1. Gonzaga lost to DeMatha in triple overtime Friday night.
Winning the WCAC isn’t St. John’s biggest goal. It wants to be national champion, and with the win — in a game televised by ESPN2 — it put itself one step closer.
“We knew we were going to be a great team,” wide receiver Cameron Ross said. “No. 1? I don’t know, but that is what we always strive for. We want to be national champions.”
St. John’s came into the game ranked fifth nationally by MaxPreps after defeating multiple national opponents in one of the toughest schedules in the country. The team’s two closest games were against Miami Central (Fla.) and Marietta (Ga.). Its 37-34 win in five overtimes over Miami Central was one of the most-discussed finishes in the area, with Jarrett pulling in a 25-yard touchdown catch to win the game.
Jarrett finished Friday with five catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Ross had four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Joe Casamento said this St. John’s team is one of the most talented he has had during his time in the program.
St. John’s was playing without injured five-star linebacker Mekhail Sherman, and five-star running back Keilan Robinson, an Alabama commit, got hurt during the game. Robinson is set to get an MRI exam on his knee.
“They showed a lot of character,” Casamento said. “We needed to win the game. They were focused. Good Counsel is a good team.”
The teams traded touchdowns on their first possessions, with Good Counsel opening the scoring with a two-yard touchdown run by Latrele Palmer with 7:08 remaining in the first quarter. The Cadets responded with a 46-yard touchdown throw from Maiava to Ross.
After a field goal by Good Counsel put it ahead 10-7, the Cadets tied the game with a field goal early in the second quarter. St. John’s methodically moved down the field on its ensuing drive, but Falcons cornerback Jason Scott intercepted Maiava’s throw into the end zone, which sent the game into halftime tied at 10.
While it held strong in the first half, Good Counsel made too many mistakes in the second, allowing the Cadets to take control. Palmer led the team with 17 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“It will help them be refocused, but a loss like this hurts,” Good Counsel Coach Andy Stefanelli said. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted to, so, yeah, you just stay positive with them. They are disappointed, but we will bounce back.”