Georgetown Prep 14
When Gonzaga got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining in a tie football game at Georgetown Prep yesterday, Eagles junior place kicker J.P. Sniezek hoped to get a shot at making the game-winning field goal. What Sniezek didn't envision was making the critical play to set up his clutch kick, which he made -- barely -- with six seconds remaining to lift No. 18 Gonzaga to a 17-14 victory over Georgetown Prep in one of the season's most anticipated games.
Sniezek's decisive 18-yard kick sneaked over the cross bar after being batted at the line of scrimmage. But it might not have been the biggest play of the drive. Sniezek also hauled in his first career reception, a 39-yard catch along the sideline that moved Gonzaga into Little Hoyas' territory and helped set up the wild finish.
"I've practiced playing wide receiver, but that was my first time playing it in a game," said Sniezek, who up to that point had played safety, place kicker and punter. Quarterback Junior Kevin Murray "just chucked it up there and I caught it. This was such a big game, it's great to come out with a win."
A spirited, standing-room-only crowd estimated at more than 5,000 witnessed the Jesuit school rivals' first meeting since 1988, and the Eagles' first victory in the series since 1985. The teams were scheduled to play last year, but Hurricane Isabel helped cancel that one. Yesterday's game, however, proved to be worth the wait.
Prep jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a two-yard run by junior Mike Shackelford (127 yards on 21 carries). Gonzaga senior Joe Taylor (109 yards on 15 carries) scored twice, from four and 47 yards, in a span of two minutes to put the Eagles ahead 14-7 in the second quarter. The Little Hoyas came right back, thanks to a three-yard run by Chris Deausen just before halftime, tying the score at 14.
But after a scoreless third quarter, it was Eagles (3-0) who made the clutch plays.
With less than two minutes remaining and Georgetown Prep (0-2) on the move, Gonzaga linebacker Lionel Rodgers and the Eagles' defensive line stuffed Little Hoyas quarterback Andrew Aldrich on a fourth-and-inches play, putting the Gonzaga offense on the field at its 37-yard line with 1 minute 46 seconds left.
Moments later, facing third and 18, Murray (7 of 11 passing for 111 yards) heaved the ball deep downfield to Sniezek, who used his 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame to his advantage, making a diving catch to put the Eagles at the Prep 32. Murray's next pass landed in the hands of senior Todd Stup, who raced to the 1-yard line with 30 seconds remaining. Three plays later, Sniezek lined up for the kick.
"I thought we had a shot when we got the ball back," Gonzaga Coach Kenny Lucas said. "We didn't want to sit on it and go for the tie. We've got a few guys who we think can play."
Prep got the ball back after Sniezek kicked it into the end zone for a touchback -- his third of the game -- but the game ended on two incomplete passes.
Said Georgetown Prep Coach Dan Paro: "It was a game of inches. We get a first down instead of getting stopped, and we're the ones going for the field goal. It was a pretty even game."