Gonzaga’s first three games featured a contest against one of the nation’s top running backs, a last-second win on a field goal and a humbling defeat to one of the top programs on the East Coast in St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.).
Though the Eagles emerged with a 1-2 mark, the payoff of those challenges won’t become evident until Friday, when No. 16 Gonzaga opens Washington Catholic Athletic Conference play at top-ranked Good Counsel.
“We’re about to find out if it was a good idea,” Eagles Coach Aaron Brady said with a laugh. “We’re getting ready to play the leader. They’re the champion until someone beats them.”
It’s been 22 games since a WCAC team defeated Good Counsel (3-1) during its four-year reign as champ. And though this year’s team features a number of new starters, the staple of the Falcons’ attack remains their ground attack. Last week, Good Counsel racked up 330 rushing yards in a win against Calvert Hall, led by career-high outputs from seniors Chris Dawson (134 yards) and Perry Stefanelli (157 yards).
Brady has challenged his players during the week to match the physicality of Good Counsel’s rushers and offensive line, stressing the importance of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.
On the other side of the ball, Gonzaga looks to dictate the tempo with its own stable of runners in Reggie Corbin and Robbie Walker. Unlike prior games, when the Eagles struggled to score in the red zone and with turnovers, last week saw Gonzaga excel in a simplistic yet effective game plan that Walker hopes is a sign of the lessons learned from their early-season gauntlet.
“I think we just needed to get back to the basics and stop hurting ourselves with mistakes,” said the Ohio recruit, who has rushed for 236 yards and five touchdowns this season. “We know Good Counsel will be a test for us, and playing mistake-free football will be that much more important.”