OLNEY — Two contenders for the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference football title, the Good Counsel Falcons and Gonzaga Eagles faced off on Friday night, with the Falcons coming out on top 27-7.
Both teams struggled in the first half, as nearly every drive ended in a punt. Each team had a couple of sustained drives, but neither was able to capitalize on opportunities. Each team was gifted with good field position on some punts, and each was able to create turnovers, but both remained scoreless for most of the first half.
Finally, a sustained Gonzaga drive finished in the end zone as Loic Sangwa broke tackles, and muscled his way to a touchdown. With the extra point, the score gave Gonzaga a 7-0 lead.
Although Good Counsel had a chance to score right before halftime, the Eagles’ defense made a goal line stand to keep the Falcons out as the clock expired to mark the conclusion of the first half. Gonzaga remained in the lead 7-0.
The Eagles controlled the pace of the game through much of the first half, and the early part of the second. Gonzaga’s Lucas Warfield was having his way running the ball in the early parts of the second half. However, on his next carry after a long run in which he picked up a first down and moved the ball to the Falcons’ 21-yard line, the Gonzaga running back fumbled. Good Counsel was able to recover, and after a short return, took over at their own 37-yard line.
“The defense came up with that big fumble recovery,” said Good Counsel head coach Andy Stefanelli. “That really got our momentum going.”
While the fumble recovery seemed small at the time, it turned out to be the turning point in this game.
Good Counsel finally took control and put points on the board, driving down the field and scoring on a touchdown run by Sy’Veon Wilkerson. Wilkerson ran off-tackle and burst past the Gonzaga defenders for the score. Good Counsel would convert the extra point, tying the game at seven.
Behind the crowd that was now back in the game, Good Counsel forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Gonzaga drive. Once Good Counsel got the ball back, quarterback Kam Snell fired a deep ball to Cam Hart. Hart was able to make the catch along the sideline over a Gonzaga defender, shook off the potential tackler, and streaked down the field for an 82-yard Falcons touchdown. The score would give Good Counsel a 14-7 lead.
On the first play of Gonzaga’s next drive, the Falcons defense sacked Eagles quarterback Caleb Williams, and caused a fumble in the process. The Falcons recovered, taking over at the Gonzaga 33-yard line.
The Falcons didn’t take long to score again. Good Counsel drove down to the Gonzaga two-yard line, where Snell would finish off the drive with a QB sneak up the middle and into the end zone. Good Counsel now led 20-7.
The Falcons would increase their lead to 27-7 with another Snell rushing score from inside the two in the final minutes of the fourth. The Falcons defense remained stout, and allowed Good Counsel to win 27-7.
“We can bounce back from anything,” Snell said of his team’s comeback. “We can overcome any obstacle, if put our minds to it.”
The dominant Good Counsel defense in the second half proved too much for the emerging start freshman quarterback Williams, shutting out the Eagles in the second half, and providing the opportunities for the Falcons to tie the game, and take the lead. The Falcons defense held the high-flying Gonzaga offense to just 138 total yards. Julio Ayamel was an integral part of that defensive performance. Ayamel finished the game with six tackles and an interception.
“Early in the season we were having a few breakdowns because of miscommunication, kids still learning the defense.” Stefanelli said. “But now they really have it down. The defense is stout, it really is.”
On offense, Snell proved to be the catalyst for the Falcons’ success; he accounted for three touchdowns in the win, rushing for two and passing for one. Snell completed 11 of 17 passes for 196 yards, and totaled a team leading 52 yards on 19 carries.
“Not only is he making plays with his feet and with his arm, but he’s becoming a great leader,” Stefanelli said. “He’s really calm in the huddle, he stays calm on the field and he’s starting to see things, he’s starting to see what plays may be developing to help me call better plays.”
The victory improved the Falcons to 7-2 on the year, while the loss dropped Gonzaga to 7-2. The Good Counsel win provided a huge shake up in the WCAC standings. Next week, Good Counsel will play Bishop McNamara on the road, and Gonzaga will face St. John’s in a pivotal season finale game in regards to the standings.