Before Friday’s game against No. 1 Good Counsel, Gonzaga Coach Aaron Brady had a message for his Eagles:
“Don’t be surprised if you’re up 14-0. Expect it.”
Strange advice, given the 16th-ranked Eagles hadn’t beaten Good Counsel since 2002. In fact, no one in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference had been able to defeat the four-time reigning conference champs in a regular season game since 2010, when DeMatha turned the trick.
But not four minutes into Friday night’s game in Olney, Brady’s Eagles were up by that score. They never relinquished the lead or let the momentum swing in the favor of the Falcons (3-2, 0-1 WCAC) for long, and they kept Good Counsel at a consistent arm’s length through a 30-20 win.
“It wasn’t a surprise for us,” said Eagles wide receiver Marcus Lewis. “We may never stop smiling about this one. I’m telling my kids about this.”
Thanks to Lewis, it was Gonzaga doing the surprising early on. The junior returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to put his team up seven just seconds in. Good Counsel fumbled four downs later, leading to a touchdown from Eagles running back Robbie Walker.
“To get that big return right away was huge. We came into this game and we expected to win,” Brady said. “It was a matter of time that we could beat these guys.”
Brady had hoped they would be ready after scheduling three games against nationally recognized programs to start the season. While his Eagles emerged 1-2, they also grew used to the speed and strength that top WCAC teams bring to the table.
“It definitely helped us,” Lewis said. “We played three of the toughest teams in the country. We were really ready.”
What Gonzaga (3-2, 1-0) wasn’t ready for was Good Counsel wide receiver Keon Paye (four catches, 202 yards), who got the Falcons on the board, catching a 60-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bryan Strittmater, who gave way to sophomore Andres Castillo in the second half.
Castillo hit Paye for two more scores, one for 65 yards, one for 78.Gonzaga’s Walker rushed for two touchdowns — including the dagger with 42 seconds left that put his team up 10 — and 50 yards on 11 carries. Reggie Corbin carried 16 times for 124 yards.
“Our offense, we pounded the ball and were able to connect on a pass once in a while,” quarterback Nick Johns said.
The atmosphere in Olney, already subdued by the unexpected look of the scoreboard late in the game, grew gloomier when Maryland-bound senior linebacker Jesse Aniebonam was hospitalized after a helmet-to-helmet hit with just over three minutes to go. Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy said Aniebonam was able to move his extremities, and he suggested the decision to bring him to the hospital was precautionary.