Gonzaga storms back to win WCAC football championship in closing seconds
Nov. 21, 2018
In astonishing come from behind fashion, Gonzaga defeated DeMatha 46-43, to claim the 2018 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference football title on Nov. 18 at The Catholic University of America.
The Eagles, coached by Randy Trivers, improved to 9-3 overall; the Stags, coached by Elijah Brooks, dropped to 8-3 overall.
Before a packed house, the fourth-seeded Eagles (who defeated top-seeded St. Johns in the semis) trailed the second-seeded Stags (who defeated third-seeded Good Counsel in the semis) on 12 different junctures in the title clash.
Gonzaga took their first lead of the entire 48 minute affair when sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams connected with wide receiver Sam Sweeney for an 11-yard touchdown with 29 seconds remaining in the contest.
The senior’s go-ahead grab gave Gonzaga a 40-36 lead, after Marco Kemp added the point after kick.
With less than a half minute remaining, a percentage of the fans headed to the exits.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, DeMatha senior Dominic Logan-Nealy ripped the return 77 yards down the right sideline and into the end zone.
The Stags took their final lead of the 2018 campaign at 43-40, after a point after kick by Joey Hood.
After Logan-Nealy's dramatic score – which had the DeMatha fan base cheering – there were merely 15 seconds left in the game.
That time-crunch-hurdle notwithstanding, Gonzaga embarked on their most important drive of the entire season from their own 35-yard line.
On first and 10, Williams completed a 12-yard sideline pass, and the Eagles had one final play remaining in 2018.
From the Gonzaga 47-yard line, 53 yards from pay dirt, Williams dropped back to pass, eluded the DeMatha pass rush and aired it out deep into the middle of the end zone – a remarkable feat for a 17-year-old high school player.
Gonzaga's John Marshall went high up into the air to pull in Williams’ amazing throw and the Eagle celebration was on.
The senior wide receiver stated afterward, “I went up and got it – it was a perfect throw from Caleb.”
Hundreds of Eagles fans stormed the field – the PAT was a “mute” point – and Gonzaga defeated DeMatha 46-43 for their first WCAC football championship since 2002.
In the 48-minute affair, DeMatha led on 12 different junctures – Gonzaga merely led on two different junctures.
However, the Purple Eagles led when the scoreboard read 00:00, as the slugfest concluded.
Early in the contest, DeMatha led 14-0 as the first quarter concluded, following touchdowns by MarShawn Lloyd and Jermaine Johnson.
Stags senior wide receiver DeMarcco Hellams caught a 23-yard TD pass from Eric Najarian to give the “Red, White and Blue” a 20-0 lead before the second quarter was even two minutes old. (The PAT was no good).
From that point forward, Gonzaga would eventually outscore their arch-rivals 46-23 over the game’s final 34-plus minutes.
Gonzaga finally got on the board when Williams punched it in from one-yard out with 9:15 remaining in the second quarter, and the Eagles’ deficit was 20-7.
DeMatha punted and then Williams aired it out to sophomore Aaron Taylor for a 37-yard scoring strike and the Eagles’ deficit was 20-14.
DeMatha increased their lead to 26-14 when senior QB Najarian punched it in from two yards out.
Gonzaga's next offensive possession ended when Hellams picked off Caleb Williams.
Shortly thereafter, halftime commenced, with DeMatha leading 26-14.
Hellams, on the day, had two receiving touchdowns and two interceptions.
Commencing the third quarter, the teams traded punts.
Thereafter, a “razzle dazzle” aerial play by the Eagles trimmed their deficit to 26-21. Williams was on the receiving end of a nine-yard pass play – which fooled the Stag defense.
Hellams, who was seemingly everywhere on the field for the Stags, hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass to conclude the third quarter.
DeMatha, after 36 minutes were in the books, led 33-21.
In the fourth quarter, Joey Hood, who also plays soccer for the Stags, booted a 24-yard field goal and DeMatha led 36-21.
Down 15 points at that juncture, Gonzaga would outscore DeMatha 25-7 to conclude the high octane contest.
Williams ripped off touchdown runs of 25 and 21 yards sandwiched around a DeMatha fumble, and the Eagles trailed 36-33 with 3:03 remaining.
Thereafter, DeMatha ran five plays from scrimmage but was forced to punt for the final time in 2018.
With first and 10 from the Eagle 32, Williams ran for 15 and then completed two long passes.
On second and 10 from the DeMatha 11-yard-line, Williams connected with the aforementioned Sweeney, who gave Gonzaga their first lead of the entire contest at 40-36.
That paved the way for Williams’ miraculous game winning throw to John Marshall seconds later, which will go down as one of the most incredible moments in all-time Gonzaga sports history.
As the public address announcer stated (as the Eagles’ student body stormed the field), “This has to be the most incredible WCAC title game ever.”
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