Best known for an improbable, full-field goal that landed on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” two years ago, Gonzaga senior Matt Borda has never devoted much practice time to honing his shot — even the conventional variety within realistic scoring distance.
Now in his fourth varsity season, the 6-foot defender entered Tuesday’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference opener against rival DeMatha with seven career goals, including the heave in the 2011 conference title game that has been viewed more than 2.2 million times on YouTube.
“When we [break to] go and get water during practice, my brother [Michael] and I sometimes shoot around, just messing around,” Borda said. “We haven’t even really done that this year.”
Nevertheless, Gonzaga depended on Borda as the unlikely offensive catalyst in Tuesday’s 6-4 victory at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex in Landover. The Fairfield recruit scored a pair of first -quarter goals and set up another tally in transition as the Eagles shook off the Stags to extend a conference winning streak that stretches from 2009.
Borda’s quick-strike scoring off the faceoff ensured Gonzaga, which finished as The Post’s top-ranked team for the first time last season, would never trail in a rematch of last season’s WCAC final. Tuesday’s game was tied for a total of just 19 seconds.
Senior Tyler Golian won the opening faceoff, and nine seconds in, Borda, playing on the wing with his long pole on faceoffs, capitalized with his second goal of the season. He took a pass from senior Joe Fitzpatrick and ripped a 12-yard shot just under the crossbar to give the Eagles (6-2) the lead.
After DeMatha tied it, Golian won possession again, as he did with all seven first-half faceoffs. Borda surprised the Stags (2-3) by scoring on a similar pass from Fitzgerald within 10 seconds.
“That was incredible,” said senior Max Planning, who also scored twice. “He just fired our sidelines up to start the game.”
Borda wasn’t finished helping the offense. Late in the opening quarter, he picked up a groundball on the run in his own defensive end and kept on going. He drew a defender and found senior Alex Corboy, who flicked a pass to senior Patrick Myers for the score.
“Matt’s just kind of got that swagger to him,” Gonzaga Coach Casey O’Neill said. “He just makes plays like that.”
Gonzaga ultimately needed those goals, unable to generate much offense in settled situations against DeMatha junior goalie Nick Ramsey, a Navy commit. Planning’s second goal with 4 minutes 5 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Eagles their largest lead at 6-2, and they were able to hold on from there.
DeMatha junior Tyler Najarian scored with 1:12 left, and the Stags drew a one-minute penalty in the scramble for the ensuing faceoff, which allowed Gonzaga to close out the victory.