St. John’s beats DeMatha for the WCAC football championship

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Late in Sunday night’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game, St. Johns wide receiver Asa Gregg ran to the right side of the end zone with his defenseman and saw the ball fly his way. Gregg and DeMatha, second defender Jacob Wallace, grabbed the ball at the same time, but someone had to secure it.

“Senior year – had to get it,” Gregg said. “Can’t go without a ring.”

Gregg won the fight and after a few moments of debate, the officials raised their arms to signal a touchdown. Gregg broke into a dance after helping give St. John’s a 7-3 win at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for back-to-back Capital Division championships and the DC Power’s 13th title.

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St. John’s (8-4) started the year with high expectations after winning 11-0 last season, which included a win in the WCAC championship game against Good Counsel. But as injuries mounted, the Cadets dropped three games in October.

After their ultimate loss, which ended 24 points at Good Counsel on Oct. 28, the St. John’s players realized they had talent — they have about a dozen Division I prospects — but they didn’t have a signature win won.

St. John’s achieved that victory on November 5 against rival Gonzaga. On November 11, the Cadets defeated Good Counsel 14-10 in the WCAC semifinals by stopping the Falcons at the 7-yard line with 75 seconds left.

On Sunday, DeMatha defenseman Tawfiq Byard intercepted a pass on the fourth play of the game to set up Junior Jackson Peterson’s 21-yard field goal. DeMatha (10-2) entered Sunday’s WCAC game undefeated, allowing about five points a game, and the Stags closed St. John’s for most of that night. But with 8:25 left, the Cadets got the ball near midfield after blocking a punt.

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St. John’s drove to the 11-yard line, where quarterback Myles Slade noticed the Stags were playing man-to-man defense and thought Gregg could make a play. The duo have often trained together over the past three years, visited the fields on the RFK campus during the pandemic, or met at North Point High in Waldorf.

After Gregg caught the ball with 1:46 to go, the few seconds that he waited for the officials’ decision seemed like an eternity. When he saw the touchdown call, “all the emotions came up,” he said.

Little did Slade, who received a scholarship offer from the Navy this month, know until last week that he would be at such a crucial juncture. After landing the starting job, the senior said he suffered an AC joint strain on Oct. 1. He returned on October 28 – and then suffered a concussion before testing positive for the coronavirus two days later. Despite being seated for Sunday’s first ride after missing practice for the past few weeks, Slade came through in the final minutes.

“I know the competitive nature of St. John’s and the great athletes that came out of St. John’s,” said Slade. “I wanted to be one of the big athletes coming out.”

A 17-14 loss to DeMatha on Oct. 22 had meant plenty of heartbreak for St. John’s: The Stags advanced on running back Da’Jaun Riggs at the 3-yard line when time was up. With 52 seconds left on Sunday, St. Johns defenseman Trent Brown grabbed an interception to forge a celebratory scene that has become commonplace for the cadets at the end of November.

“You look at your hands, you see the ball and you don’t even realize what you’ve done,” he said. “It’s unreal.”

Finally Carroll is upstairs

Junior Nasir Smith led Archbishop Carroll to a 46-28 victory over Paul VI. in the WCAC Metro Division last Sunday in Annapolis.

With 3:27 left, Smith rushed for a 9-yard touchdown and converted a two-point try to give Carroll (10-2) a 32-28 lead. Eighteen seconds later, he intercepted Paul VI (9-3) while playing linebacker. With 2:23 left, Smith ran for a 15-yard touchdown that gave Carroll a 39-28 lead.

The DC private school won its 14th championship, the second highest in WCAC history but the first since 1988.

“The guys just dug in and said, hey, we didn’t play Carroll football in the first half and we had to do that,” said coach Robert Harris. “We ran the ball, we played off the run, and that was Carroll football. Those things started to work and the defense picked it up and the rest is history.

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