WASHINGTON, DC – The 17th Annual Jesuit Gridiron Classic featuring Georgetown Preparatory School and Gonzaga College High School took place on Sept. 14 at Buchanan Field in Washington, D.C.
The rivalry between the two schools dates back to 1891, and the Eagles owned the series record 40-28-3 as they headed into their latest contest against the Little Hoyas. Georgetown Prep last beat Gonzaga in 2011 and since then, the Eagles have blanked the Little Hoyas four out of the seven times the two teams have played against each other.
However, the game on Sept. 14 was an emotional one for players from both teams, since it marked the very last time the Gridiron Classic will take place.
Georgetown Prep maintained a lead for most of the first half, but a dominant second-half display by Gonzaga running backs Malcolm Terry II and Joseph Hammond, Jr. led the Eagles to three touchdowns in under six minutes. Gonzaga would go on to claim the Gridiron Classic trophy, as well as another victory over the Little Hoyas, by a score of 31-7.
“I knew that my linemen were going to get the job done and that my teammates were going to do what they needed to do,” said Hammond of his performance. “I was going to do what I needed to do. We were able to win as a team.”
Even though the Eagles came away with the win, the quiet first half was uncharacteristic for Gonzaga. The Eagles didn’t score a single touchdown in the first half, and Head Coach Randy Trivers attributed that offensive stall to a lack of discipline.
“We weren’t playing our brand of football in terms of the level of discipline that we play with as far as some of the things we do offensively and defensively,” said Trivers.
Meanwhile, the Little Hoyas took advantage as Gonzaga’s offense floundered. Georgetown Prep senior running back and Virginia Tech commit Jalen Hampton moved the ball down the field and fearlessly stiff-armed a defender out of his way. Junior quarterback Kyonte Hamilton called his own number and ran 19 yards before connecting with wide receiver Chase MacCartee for a 29-yard touchdown.
Gonzaga’s defense generated two big plays at the end of the half when defensive lineman Rodney Faulk sacked Hamilton. Then, linebacker Blake McLaughlin intercepted Hamilton on the very next play as the quarterback went to the ground to complete a pass.
Hammond said that a motivational halftime pep talk helped put the Eagles in the right state of mind to start the second half with a bang.
“Our mindset wasn’t as strong as it needed to be. We probably thought that we were better than we actually are,” said Hammond. “We had a great halftime talk, and we were able to get through it.”
Whatever Trivers discussed in the locker room at halftime certainly resonated with Hammond and Terry. Even though Terry had a long run negated by a holding penalty on Gonzaga, the two running backs repeatedly pushed through the Georgetown Prep defense until they hit pay dirt.
The Little Hoyas offense, however, seemed to sputter in the second half. Hampton fought for yardage, but the Gonzaga defense pushed him backward. Georgetown Prep’s long first-half drives whittled down to three-and-outs as the Eagles defenders chased after Hamilton and forced him to throw under heavy pressure.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga senior fullback Derrick Aikens had the distinction of closing out the last Gridiron Classic when he registered a 2-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Gonzaga players and coaches posed with the Gridiron Classic trophy for the 13th and final time, while several Little Hoyas appeared visibly upset.
“Last night we had a discussion, and we all just wanted it really bad,” said Hamilton. “This is the last game that we’re going to play against Gonzaga, at least for a long time. I’m proud that everybody fought as hard as they could every play. They were just overall a good team, and we tried our hardest and couldn’t get it done.”
“I think every loss is an emotional loss. The good thing is, you have two Jesuit institutions who have great respect for each other. We laid everything we had,” said Georgetown Prep Head Coach Dan Paro. “For our young men coming out after a lot of injuries and a tough loss (against Loyola Blakefield) last week, for them coming out on this field, they showed pride. That’s something that as a coach, you really look for. Today they showed it. No one likes to lose, but they fought their tails off.”
The Gridiron Classic is Gonzaga’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and the proceeds from the game will benefit the Washington Jesuit Academy.