St. John's celebrates after winning first WCAC title in school history. (Isaiah Cromer/The Left Bench)

St. John’s rolls over Gonzaga, 30-7, to win first WCAC title

In a game between two of the oldest rivals in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, No. 2 St. John’s College (8-2, 6-0 WCAC) defeated No. 9 Gonzaga (7-4, 3-3 WCAC), 30-7, in the 95th meeting between the schools to win their first ever WCAC championship in school history and first conference title since 1989.

DeMatha had won the last four titles, but after knocking out DeMatha in the semifinal last week, this year’s championship was St. John’s for the taking.

“It means so much to everyone,” St. John’s quarterback Kevin Doyle said, “To come out and beat DeMatha and Gonzaga in back-to-back weeks in incredible. It’s the first time in St. John’s history and to win a championship for the first time in a long time is phenomenal.”

Today’s championship game was off to a slow start for Gonzaga when the Eagle’s first drive ended in a three-and-out after a false start and delay of game knocked them back 10 yards.

St. John’s had their offense in a groove right away, driving all the way down to the one yard line. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty knocked them back 15 yards, but they still managed a field goal on that drive to take a 3-0 lead.

Gonzaga’s ensuing drive took up the rest of the first quarter as they drove 80 yards to take a 7-3 lead after freshman quarterback Caleb Williams scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak.

The rest of the second quarter was filled with penalties and stalled drives. St. John’s went three and out after Gonzaga’s touchdown, but the Eagles turned it over on downs at 50 yard line soon after due to a penalty setting them back.

St. John’s started their next drive with quick passes that got them inside the red zone, but a fumble from senior Cadet receiver Charles Briscoe gave the ball right back to the Eagles.

That fumble didn’t hurt St. John’s though, as they forced a three-and-out and they returned the punt all way to the Eagles 31 yard line with 1:40 left in the half.

The Cadets ultimately scored on a 16-yard pass from four-star senior and Michigan quarterback commit Kevin Doyle to junior wide receiver Quinton Johnson to take a 10-7 lead into halftime. Doyle was first-team all-conference but this was his only touchdown of the day.

“This game I didn’t do much,” Doyle said, “but I didn’t need to. For everybody to do what they had to do and the run was phenomenal and they won us the game today. That was their win.”

Doyle transferred to St. John’s from Malvern Prep in Malvern, Penn. for his senior season, and he didn’t imagine anything else for his senior season.

“I came in knowing it was a great program, but I didn’t know much about them,” Doyle said. “I pictured a championship, I pictured a hard-working program and I pictured kids coming from all walks of live grinding for the same goal so I can’t be more proud.”

Kevin Doyle celebrates championship with coach Rashod Gillespie and former St. John’s quaterback and current Maryland quarterback Kasim Hill. (Mackaiya Cherry/The Left Bench)

Arguably St. John’s best offensive player, four-star sophomore and first team all-conference receiver Rakim Jarrett was held without a catch the entire game.

St. John’s Antwain Littleton powered his 6 foot, 265 pound frame over two Eagles defenders to score on a three-yard run to finish their first drive of the second half, taking a 17-7 lead for the Cadets with 8:20 left in the third quarter.

Gonzaga then had to punt after an intentional grounding penalty set them back inside their own five yard line.

Penalties cost Gonzaga plenty of times today, ending the day with 11 penalties for 112 yards on the day.

St. John’s next possession got into Eagle’s territory, but Doyle threw only his fifth interception of the year after Gonzaga linebacker Aaron Davis jumped in front of a crossing route and picked it off.

Again, the turnover from the Cadets wasn’t costly because a sack from senior Virginia Tech commit and first team all-conference defensive tackle Cam Goode caused a turnover on downs and St. John’s took over at the Gonzaga 30 yard line.

That great field position made it easy for St. John’s to travel down on score off of a one-yard run from Johnson to score his second touchdown of the day and take a 24-7 lead over Gonzaga with 11:15 left in the game.

A Gonzaga three-and-out forced the Eagles to punt, giving the ball back to St. John’s inside Gonzaga territory at the 43 yard line. Gonzaga was able to hold St. John’s to only a field goal, making it 27-7, St. John’s, with only 6:56 left in the game.

The nail in the coffin came when St. John’s freshman defensive lineman Taizse Johnson sacked Williams on 4th and 12 inside their own five yard line, giving St. John’s the ball in the red zone with under five minutes left in the game.

The Cadets tacked on another field goal to make it 30-7 with 3:28 left in the game and Gonzaga had all but one more shot to make it close.

Gonzaga turned it over on downs on their final drive with 31 seconds left, leaving St. John’s to take a knee once and collect their first WCAC title in school history. The Cadets have nine WMAC titles, but had not won a title since the WCAC was formed in 1991.