Gonzaga defeated reigning District of Columbia State Athletic Association’s (DCSAA) Class AA champs H.D. Woodson 29-6 in Sunday’s championship game at Catholic University Cardinal Stadium.
Last year, the Warriors of H.D. Woodson won the Class AA title by defeating Friendship Collegiate 25-8.
But this was the first year that D.C.’s top public and private schools played for a championship title since the 1970’s. The cancellation was an outgrowth of a riot that followed the 1962 game between the predominantly white fans of St. John’s and the predominantly African-American fans of Eastern. The game was attended by more than 50,000 people at RFK Stadium.
The public and private champions have been meeting in other sports, but football was the last sport to accept the concept.
To qualify for the championship, H.D. Woodson defeated Ballou 16-12 in the 45th annual Turkey Bowl and the Eagles of Gonzaga edged past Friendship Collegiate 20-19 in the Class AA semifinals.
The Eagles started out the season without a football field and began practicing at Cardinal Stadium. Gonzaga Head Coach Randy Trivers said the team had challenges from Day One but was able to end the season on a high note, winning the championship where it all started.
“When you can finish the season with a smile on your face after a victory, that’s a good thing,” said Trivers.
“I respect them a great deal,” said Trivers. “I’m very proud of this football team.”
Running back Tyree Randolph scored three touchdowns against H.D. Woodson. He said it was big for the 9-3 Eagles to defeat a team who started the game with a 11-2 record.
“Momentum really helped us in this game,” said Randolph. “Execution was a big part of our offense and why we clicked.”
“I’m so proud of the team,” Fitzgerald said. “I think this is going to pave the way for a lot of success within our program going forward.”
Tyree Randolph, Gonzaga roll past H.D. Woodson in DCSAA Class AA championship
After the Warriors (11-3) drove to the Gonzaga 9-yard line on the game’s opening possession, Gonzaga (10-3) forced a turnover on downs. Randolph capped the Eagles’ ensuing possession by stutter-stepping around a potential tackler and sprinting for a 16-yard score with 5 minutes 15 seconds left in the first quarter. Randolph scored again four minutes later, and quarterback Nick Johns connected with senior wide receiver Luke Prominski on a five-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 22-0 lead at halftime.
Before the game, Warriors Coach Steve Scott advised his squad not to worry about the factors out of their hands — officiating, politics or the other team — and instead, to focus on things they could control.
But midway through the second quarter, Woodson’s chances were hurt by just this type of unforeseen circumstance, when senior quarterback Rashad Cooper went down with a shoulder injury.
“It was a big blow, but it wasn’t the fatal blow that hurt us, because the ninth-grader came in and threw the ball and moved it really well,” Scott said.
The “ninth-grader” is freshman quarterback Khalil Wright, who with his first high school pass attempt tossed a 35-yard dime along the right sideline to receiver Parnell Motley, who was tackled at the Gonzaga 1-yard line. Two plays later, Dymir Stone broke the plane on a one-yard dive for Woodson’s only touchdown.
The Eagles played without several starters, including blue-chip college prospects Richie Petitbon, Jabari Greenwood and Corbin, who Gonzaga Coach Randy Trivers said were nursing injuries.
“Everyone stepped up, especially the offensive linemen, receivers, and the whole defense,” Randolph said. “They knew players weren’t playing, so they bonded in and stepped up.”
Trivers knew his team was hungry for a chance at a true city title, even if the Eagles didn’t fully grasp the implications of Sunday’s game, which marked D.C.’s first private/public football championship contest since the 1970s.
“I don’t know if everybody understands the magnitude when this game was played several years ago, how much it meant to the city,” Gonzaga’s first-year coach said. “This game is a hypothetical game five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years. It was ‘what if.’ Now it’s a real game, and it’s great for the city, the schools and the kids.”
The Gonzaga varsity football team will face H.D. Woodson High School in the DC State Athletic Association football championship game on Sunday, December 7th. The Eagles defeated Friendship Collegiate, 20-19, in the semifinals on November 29th. The championship game will be held at 4:00 PM at Catholic University. Tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for students with a student ID.