Paul VI Catholic's football team still has not scored on Gonzaga in three years, although that did not stop a wild celebration on the Panthers' sideline following yesterday's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference game, which ended scoreless.
For once, Paul VI (2-0-1) kept Gonzaga off the scoreboard. That alone was a measure of achievement for Paul VI in front of 800 at Gonzaga's Buchanan Field in Northwest Washington. The Panthers had dropped the previous two meetings between the schools by a combined 70-0, including 25-0 last season.
The 10th-ranked Eagles (2-0-1) had a chance to win the game as time expired, but Chris Jordan's 36-yard field goal attempt fell a foot short.
The WCAC does not play overtime during the regular season.
The game was delayed 25 minutes early in the second quarter when Paul VI Principal John Lyle collapsed on the sideline with what doctors described as a seizure. He was taken to Fairfax Hospital and released last night after undergoing tests.
When Jordan's kick fell short, the Panthers clearly felt they had escaped. Players joyously ran onto the field and hugged one another. Gonzaga's players walked slowly to the locker room.
For Paul VI Coach Wade Keel, this was a tie that felt like a win.
"This is a great win for our program," Keel said. "I know it is not really a win, but it is a great shot in the arm, coming here and tying a great team like Gonzaga. This is the best thing that has happened to our program in the three years I have been here."
Gonzaga Coach Maus Collins wasn't quite as pleased.
"It does not get much closer than 0-0. The kick was really close, Chris certainly hit it well," Collins said. "But overall I thought both defenses played great and I am disappointed in our offense."
Though Gonzaga got inside Paul VI's 30-yard line three times, it did not get inside the 20 until 21 seconds remained following a punt return by Conrad Singh and a 15-yard facemask penalty that put the ball at the Paul VI 18.
But Eagles quarterback Dan Hagan threw two incomplete passes and lost a yard on a run leading to the field goal attempt.
Paul VI got inside Gonzaga's 20 once, after linebacker Thomas Hoover intercepted a Hagan pass and returned it to the Eagles 11 late in the second quarter. But on first down, the Panthers fumbled and senior linebacker Steve Pavlick (seven tackles) recovered for the Eagles.
There was little else in the way of offense for the teams. Gonzaga finished with 104 yards rushing and 37 yards passing. Paul VI finished with 99 yards rushing and 25 yards passing. Paul VI had the only play of more than 20 yards, when Ryan O'Hara caught a 25-yard pass from Colin Hannigan in the fourth quarter.
Even though the Eagles did not seem pleased with the result, senior co-captain Brian Becker, who finished with six tackles, was able to find one positive note.
"I grew up with Colin Hannigan and blocked for him for three years in a youth league," a smiling Becker said. "It felt good to line up against him and try to ring his bell a little."