St. John's completes WCAC sweep as it continues theme of strong fourth-quarter defense

Photo: Larry French/St. John's College

In scoring 15 unanswered fourth quarter points in the win over No. 16 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), St. John’s College High School finished its regular season with a sweep of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

It was much needed to get its record to 6-4 and become the favorite to win the championship.

This stretch was built on dominant fourth-quarter defense. It was full of comebacks. The Cadets made up for the 0-4 stretch against Super 25 teams, three of which were in the top five when the game took place, and have asserted themselves at the top of the conference.

Gonzaga was in the driver’s seat Saturday leading 28-17 heading into the fourth quarter. St. John’s had a first down inside the five-yard line but was unable to score: An off-balance pass from Sol-Jay Maiava to a diving Rakim Jarrett in the end zone was wiped away due to an illegal participation penalty so St. John’s was forced into a long field goal, which was missed.

The Eagles had an opportunity to run down the clock, but St. John’s forced a three-and-out.

A theme of this stretch has been the Cadets’ fourth-quarter defense. They did not allow a single point in the final period in any of the four games. Against Our Lady of Good Counsel two weeks ago, St. John’s scored eight unanswered for the comeback win. Against DeMatha last week, neither team scored.

St. John’s capitalized on the Gonzaga three-and-out, scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion to bring the game within a field goal.

On the next Gonzaga drive, St. John’s came up with another big sack, its second on third down in consecutive drives, which forced another punt.

St. John’s got the ball back. On third-and-long, running back Colby McDonald caught a short pass and shot up the sideline. The burst got him past the front line of defense and he ended up in the end zone with a 53-yard touchdown.

It was up to the defense, one which had performed so well in the fourth quarter, for one final stand.

The Cadets tackled Gonzaga quarterback Caleb Williams in the backfield twice to ice the game.

Now 6-4, St. John’s completed its second fourth-quarter comeback in three games to wrap up a sweep of the WCAC.

It has been a mighty turnaround from its stretch against national competition, one that may have ultimately helped them in the long run.

After the September game against No. 1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California), St. John’s head coach Joe Casamento told the Washington Post he doesn’t regret playing those tough games.

“I don’t think there’s a kid here who would tell you that they didn’t enjoy playing these guys,” he said.

After being humbled in that stretch, St. John’s came back to the WCAC hungry and showed resiliency down the stretch.

It now goes into the playoffs knowing it can and has beaten any team it may face.

Next up: a rematch against DeMatha.

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