Cadets football tramples Falcons in season opener

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St. John’s senior wide receiver Charles Briscoe caught a pair of long touchdown passes to help propel the Cadets past Good Counsel in their WCAC opener on Oct. 6 in Olney, Md. (photo courtesy of Chris Thompkins)

Last week, St. John’s senior wideout Charles Briscoe tweaked a toe in practice, leaving his availability in doubt for Friday night’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference opener.

In the end, Briscoe missed a pair of practices with the injury, which hinders a receiver’s ability to cut crisply through routes. But he refused to sit out the showdown at Good Counsel.

“I just blocked it out, and the adrenaline kicked in,” Briscoe said. “I knew I would make plays.”

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He did.

The wideout exploded for a pair of 50-yard receiving touchdowns to propel the Cadets to a 31-9 victory over the Falcons.

“It was really exciting to have him out there,” said junior running back Keilan Robinson. “The whole week he was complaining about his toe, and I was getting on him for crying about a toe injury. He exploded for a big game. I was just expecting him to be working back into the rotation.”

While the Cadets eventually pulled away from Good Counsel with a dominant victory, the first half was more of a typical WCAC slugfest.

The Cadets went just three plays and out on their first series, at which point the Falcons took a long drive down the field for a field goal. That move gave Good Counsel a 3-0 lead with just 1:31 to go in the first quarter.

St. John’s followed it up with another short possession, but it ended in dazzling fashion. The Cadets needed just one play for senior quarterback Kevin Doyle to fling a 72-yard bomb to Briscoe, resulting in a 7-3 lead by the end of the period.

The Cadets offense struggled for the remainder of the first half as Good Counsel continued to dominate possession and prevent St. John’s from finding its groove.

“We had a bad first series, then they scored and we scored on a play. We couldn’t get into the flow,” said St. John’s coach Joe Casamento. “I don’t think we started out real well. It was probably my fault. We had one game, a bye and another bye. I thought we came out in the right frame of mind, and we just didn’t play the way I thought we would.”

Despite the slow start, St. John’s tacked on a field goal by senior kicker Rafe Checa to take a 10-3 lead into the locker room after a challenging first half.

During the break, Casamento’s message to the Cadets was straightforward. “We knew the mistakes we were making,” he said. “All we had to do was read our keys and do the right things here, and we can really do a nice job in the second half.”

Good Counsel spent most of the first half trying to limit Robinson’s ability to run, so St. John’s switched things up and launched an aerial attack. On the Cadets’ first possession of the second half, they sent Robinson on a deep route — despite lining up in the backfield — where he caught a deep pass from Doyle and strolled into the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown.

“In the first half they were stopping our bread and butter,” Robinson said. “In the second half we came out and did what we do best — score.”

That scoring play threw Good Counsel off for the remainder of the game, as St. John’s began mixing up its calls and giving Doyle the choice to run or pass at the line depending on the Falcons’ defensive looks.

“When they just went four [defensive backs] and they loaded the boxes, we knew we were going to pass it already,” said Briscoe. “We just capitalized off the plays.”

The passing game set up the run, as Robinson found holes on the ground for the remainder of the night.

“If you limit me, that means everything else is going to be wide open,” Robinson said. “If you stop the run, the pass is open. If you stop the pass, the run is open. It’s ‘pick your poison.’”

Good Counsel answered with another touchdown to trim the lead to 17-9. Then, defensively, the Falcons again loaded the box to stop Robinson from grinding out the clock with the run. That opened up Doyle to connect with Briscoe on another long bomb of 54 yards to put the game out of reach.

“The first one was sweet,” said Briscoe. “The second one was sweeter. And I knew after that second one it was game, because I have faith in my defense.”

The victory moves the Cadets’ record to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the WCAC. While the two losses may look bad on paper, the Cadets purposely scheduled nationally ranked teams to prepare for conference games.

“After that second bye week we had, this week we keyed on finishing,” said Briscoe. “We worked on conditioning to be ready for this moment, and it obviously worked.”

St. John’s will look to move to 2-0 in league play when it hosts Bishop McNamara on Saturday at 2 p.m.