WCAC Playoff Schedule:
Friday November 10th: Gonzaga (3) @ Good Counsel (2), 7:00
Saturday November 11th: DeMatha (4) @ St. John’s (1), 1:00
With perhaps one of the most outlandish WCAC seasons of recent years, it is very easy to say that the “Big 4” are all in contention for the WCAC title. Let’s look at each team's regular season breakdown and how they fare in playoff season.
St. John’s Cadets
Regular Season Outlook
The Cadets have certainly had one of their best seasons yet under second-year head coach Joe Casamento and the top quarterback in the area, Kevin Doyle, a Michigan commit. Since the recent development of stronger recruiting, coaching changes and cultural changes over on Military Road, talent has never been a worry for the Cadets. For the first time in a long time, it finally seems as though this St. John’s coaching staff can handle all the talent they have their hands full with and execute. The Cadets played one of the, if not the toughest schedule in the entire land this season. And handled it extremely well with two losses to historic national California powers De La Salle and St. John Bosco.
The Cadets certainly have the talent and mindset to make their second consecutive championship appearance, but it all boils down to what kind of DeMatha team we are going to see. A very close game with three-time defending national champions Bishop Gorman was convincing enough for us to think that DeMatha would yet again be the team to beat. And they still are the team to beat, defending four consecutive WCAC trophies. But will Elijah Brooks have his team ready to go to war at St. John’s this Saturday? This one could truly go either way, as St. John’s feels a sense of redemption they need to achieve for all of the domination they have fell victim to from DeMatha over the past few seasons. At the same time, DeMatha is also hungry for revenge after suffering their first loss to St. John’s in 24 years this season. For St. John's, this game is all about staying relaxed and not letting DeMatha, history and outsiders get into their head.
Good Counsel Falcons
Andy Stefanelli and his Falcons deserve some kind of an award for a truly remarkable season thus far that had the odds heavily stacked against them to begin. A fresh coaching staff, a new starting quarterback and a pretty young team that is Good Counsel would never have been thought to have had the year they have had coming into the playoffs. Major comeback wins against a much stronger Archbishop Spalding, a very impressive victory over a tough Gonzaga team and an overtime thriller over DeMatha is certainly worthy of an applause to coach Stefanelli and his team.
Good Counsel is known to be a strong playoff team. Winning seasons, losing seasons, the playoff qualification is there more often than not, with an impressive amount of WCAC titles and championship appearances to back that. There is much similarity in their playoff game vs. Gonzaga against that of St. John’s and DeMatha. Like DeMatha, Gonzaga has already lost to Good Counsel on the road this year, and will certainly have much more of an incentive to win this game and make their first championship since 2011. Will Good Counsel let that stop them?
Like Good Counsel, Gonzaga has had an incredible year with many big losses and a huge offensive change. Caleb Williams, freshman quarterback for the Eagles, has conducted himself extremely well and played way beyond his years. A bright future for Williams is in store to say the least. Nonetheless, the Eagles will need Williams to show up big time this Friday at Good Counsel to manage a tough and bruising Good Counsel defense. With one of the best defenses in the WCAC, Gonzaga must stay composed on the opposite side of the ball at all times during this game and be ready to stop Sy’Veon Wilkerson who ran circles around Gonzaga a few weeks back.
It has been a lengthy six seasons since Gonzaga has made a championship game, so obviously their playoff record of recent years is not impressive at all. There is no question that Gonzaga has the players and abilities to make it to the championship. For the young Eagles, it is about executing their game plan by coming out of the gates extremely fast and unpredictable. Torn ACL's to running back and safety Jason Labbe coupled with safety Nick DeChristopher may be hindering to Gonzaga against a sharp Good Counsel. Will the Eagles finally do what we know they have been capable of doing in qualifying for a championship? Or will their playoff luck continue and bring their season to a close?
This has been arguably one of the most unusual and disappointing seasons that the DeMatha Stags have had in a long time. A losing record heading into the playoffs is something that nobody would have believed if they were told that that's how DeMatha’s season would unfold going into November. With that being said, there is absolutely nothing that anybody can take away from DeMatha. Defending four consecutive titles, they are still the team to beat that have been on the hotseat in the WCAC for years and years now. Will their championship run finally come to an end? Maybe we have not fully seen DeMatha’s true colors yet this season.
In the hopes of avenging their first loss to St. John’s in 24 seasons, DeMatha has all the incentive in the world to win this game. Being away from home against the title favorites is all that a DeMatha side needs to know in order to come out and shine this Saturday. The Stags have always been the best team at blocking out all of the hype and expectations leading into games where they instead just play free and bring their best. But their best is going to need to match the intensity and hunger of St. John’s in order to even have a remote chance at winning this game. Will DeMatha’s three losses to all of the “Big 4” programs shake their confidence heading into playoffs, or motivate them even more to take what is theirs against St. John's?
How will they win?
With a very talented and menacing offense, St. John’s needs to simply play the way they have been playing and not let DeMatha’s history get to them. This will be much more of a mental battle for St. John’s than a physical one, as they are riding high from a great regular season while having a lot of expectations on them to succeed.
With that being said, coaching decisions will win this game no matter what. St. John’s had a championship locked down last year until they decided to make some extremely nonsensical and strange play calls that lost them the game. Casamento and co. must be smart about what kind of decisions they are making, as this game could turn on its head in DeMatha’s favor in the blink of an eye.
The Falcons always seem to pull some tricks out of the bag just when we think that they’ve run out of gas. Look no further as they will likely do the same this Friday night. The Good Counsel offense is certainly capable of getting points on the board with Kam Snell’s cannon of an arm and strong running game as well. However, Good Counsel may have to pull some things out of their sleeve that they never would have thought to since Gonzaga will be preparing for them in every which way their offense decides to go on Friday night.
All in all, this game will be won in practice this week. Two hard-nosed programs who can really beat anyone when they put it all together is going to make for an exceptional matchup this Friday night in Olney. This comes down to whoever wants it more just like it did two weeks ago when Good Counsel surged in the fourth quarter scoring 27 unanswered points that left Gonzaga clueless.
Gonzaga always seem to have their keys to success figured out pretty early on into the season. However, this predictable nature can be easy for their opponents to sense which is known to hurt them in games that they are capable of winning. Gonzaga will need to prepare for this game better than ever before and really be mentally sharp and ready to go on Friday night.
Like Good Counsel, Gonzaga is going to need to have a few tricks to pull out of the bag since running a routine offense will be predictable and easy to stop. As long Gonzaga stays composed and on their toes at all times both offensively and defensively, they will have a legitimate shot at winning this game.
I never thought that I would be saying that DeMatha will seriously need to figure something out in order to run down St. John’s in the hopes of defending their title on Saturday afternoon. An abnormal amount of penalties, a quarterback situation that really needs some direction and guidance are just a few of the weaknesses we have seen of the Stags this year that they simply cannot afford going into their biggest game of the season. As we know, in the toughest of situations, DeMatha has always been able to produce something extraordinary and shock everyone from year to year.
I have no doubt that DeMatha is hungry for this game and that Coach Brooks will have his side ready to play. DeMatha’s defensive preparation is going to be the deciding factor for them to win this game. With what is the best offense in the conference, St. John’s has little to worry about as long as Kevin Doyle is in the game. DeMatha must find a way to stop the St. John’s running game and their shifty receivers and quickly figure out how to put up points themselves.