While Gonzaga was driving for a touchdown Saturday, Marcus Cherry nervously paced the sidelines, exhorting his teammates and cursing his sprained right ankle. The Purple Eagles' senior tailback suffered his untimely injury early in the week running a pass pattern and was forced to watch the Metro Conference opener against O'Connell.

Without Cherry and Matt O'Connell (sprained ankle), the place kicker and safety, the Eagles stopped O'Connell's Eric Metcalf and came away with a 21-7 victory.

"It's hard to watch but . . . ," said Cherry, who has accounted for more than 350 total yards offense for the 4-0 Eagles. "I hope to play this week against Reading (Pa.). I just want to contribute any way I can."

Gonzaga, coming off a 6-4 year after a rousing 8-3 effort in 1982, is hoping to challenge Carroll and DeMatha for title honors. With a healthy Cherry, it's possible.

"I'm a little surprised at our early success. We're much smaller and we don't have the overall talent we had in 1982 but the guys are working well as a team," Gonzaga Coach Mark Gowin said. "The kids have good work habits."

The big difference, Gowin and Cherry agree, has been the tremendous improvement of quarterback Gary McIntosh. The junior showed poise and a nice passing touch as he completed 18 of 30 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown against O'Connell. He scored the go-ahead touchdown on a one-yard sneak in the fourth period.

"Last year, Gary was a little nervous," Cherry said. "This year he has cooled out. Saturday, he threw better than he has ever. He really looked good."

Gowin pointed out McIntosh is throwing the ball well to all his receivers.

"We have some good, Smurf-type receivers and Gary finds them," Gowin said. "We don't throw the ball deep often. Our passing attack is more of a control, short attack. We plan to throw more to take advantage of Gary's ability. It's in our best interest to pass more, especially in our league. But we still have to do a better job of running the ball. Of course, Marcus gives us that."

McIntosh said his improvement is the result of a tough, summer quarterback camp and lots of weight training and running.

"I can see the difference," McIntosh said. "The work is paying off."

In four games, McIntosh has completed 50 of 83 for 628 yards and four touchdowns. Gonzaga has defeated Wilson, 21-7; Theodore Roosevelt, 28-0; Georgetown Prep, 28-3, and O'Connell.

Gonzaga is hopeful McIntosh continues his fast start and the other key players return when the Eagles face Carroll, DeMatha and McNamara on consecutive Saturdays.