NORTH BETHESDA – Since 1891, Gonzaga and Georgetown Prep have played football against each other.
Perhaps in all those years, they never played a game like the one Saturday afternoon.
Leading by 17 points at home, it seemed like the Little Hoyas had the Eagles’ number.
But a pair of interceptions from Gonzaga senior linebacker Mitchell Johns, persistent yards from running back Tyree Randolph and one major touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Brown, helped the Eagles (3-1) claw their way back to take down Georgetown Prep (2-1) by a 21-20 final score.
“We can’t go score 21 points in one minute, but we can chip away,” said Gonzaga Head Coach Randy Trivers.
Down 17 points in the third quarter, Trivers said he told his team to be calm and live the moment.
“I mean, we have a culture in our program that we try to foster and one of the things we consistently try to do is really build a sense of togetherness and mental toughness and poise in situations like this,” Trivers said.
At the beginning, the game was a tough defensive battle with Georgetown Prep leading 10-0 at half.
On their first play after half time, Georgetown Prep quarterback James Molloy floated a 60-yard touchdown pass to Aidan McCleary who beat his man on running a post route. The score put the Little Hoyas up 17-0.
On the next possession, the Eagles had perhaps their best drive of the game to that point in the game, leaning on Randolph as he carried Gonzaga down the field.
But Randolph was stuffed at the goal line on fourth-and-goal, ending a long 10-play, 60-yard drive with no points.
Down by 17 and stopped on four straight attempts at a touchdown from within the Georgetown Prep five-yard line, the game seemed out of hand for the Eagles.
But after the turning the ball over on downs, Gonzaga stole some of the momentum back from Georgetown Prep, stuffing the Little Hoyas within their 10-yard line and forcing a three and out.
“I know going onto the field at 17-nothing I was talking to the defense and saying ‘we’re not going to let them score again, it’s going to be a three and out every time,’” said Johns, who had two fourth quarter interceptions for the Eagles. “We stuck to it and we just worked our butts off.”
Just before the third quarter ended, Eagles running back Tyree Randolph punched in a touchdown from nine yards out to cut the deficit to 10 points.
After a Georgetown Prep field goal to make the score 20-7, Randolph who was key on the ground for the Eagles, split two Georgetown Prep Safety, caught a pass over the middle from Brown, broke a tackle scoring a touchdown to bring Gonzaga within six points.
“I just wanted to split the safeties and get in the middle of the field and catch the ball and make a play,” Randolph said.
After Georgetown Prep quarterback Molloy left the game with a leg injury, the speedy John Ridgway took his place. Following Randolph’s touchdown, Ridgway threw an interception to Johns, who returned it to the Little Hoyas’ 27 yard line.
After saving the Eagles drive by completing an 11-yard pass, Brown finished off the drive with a quarterback sneak from one yard out, Gonzaga a 21-20 lead with 4:06 remaining.
Johns picked off Ridgway again with 2:19 remaining, clinching the game for the Eagles.
“I think in the first half it was all mental errors,” Johns said. “At halftime the coaches really talked to us and we know we prepared the right way and we had to go out there and do what we were told.”
The schools donated the proceeds from Saturday’s game to the Washington Jesuit Academy.
Next up for Gonzaga is a game Sept. 24 at McNamara while Georgetown will play Sept. 30 at Riverdale Baptist.