Heavy-hitting Gonzaga pulls away from H.D. Woodson for second straight DCSAA Class AA title
Gonzaga takes down H.D. Woodson for city championship
No. 8 Eagles dominate for second straight D.C. State Athletic Association Class AA championship
By Mark Giannotto December 5
Gonzaga linebacker Mitchell Johns saw the play that ultimately became H.D. Woodson’s last gasp develop and let instincts take over. Warriors tailback Calid Shorter leaked out of the backfield on fourth and goal for a swing pass but was soon met with a one-handed tackle that looked more like a pro wrestling clothesline.
This latest hit joined the others, both on this afternoon and throughout the fall, that became the calling card for these Eagles and eventually allowed them to turn a close game into a rout Saturday. Behind its trademark physicality and a few more helmet-rattling moments, No. 8 Gonzaga pulled away from Woodson for a 45-6 victory to capture its second straight D.C. State Athletic Association Class AA championship at Howard University.
The Eagles scored 38 unanswered points, including 35 in the second half, after the Warriors threatened to pull off an upset.
“We don’t have a lot of the athletes other teams have, but we got the toughness,” said senior safety and wide receiver Luke McCaleb, who earned MVP honors. “We got guys who can bring the wood all day.”
The defining sequence came as soon as the teams emerged from the locker room after halftime. The Eagles, nursing a 10-6 lead, stopped Woodson to start the third quarter and then took advantage of prime field position following a poor punt and a penalty. Tailback Tyree Randolph needed one play to score a touchdown from 14 yards.
With the Class AA title on the line, Luke McCaleb and the Eagles completely dominate the second half en route to a 48-6 win over the Warriors. (Video by Brandon Martin for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)
Woodson then compounded the lost momentum with an interception, and Gonzaga (11-2) capitalized again when fullback Joey Freeman rumbled into the end zone for another score. Then came Johns’s big hit once the Warriors drove the ball to the 3-yard line. They would never recover.
“We were pissed off with ourselves,” said Gonzaga linebacker Kyle Taylor, who also had a three-yard touchdown run in which he steamrolled a Woodson defender. “We didn’t think we played as well as we could’ve, and we were just ready to go out and play Gonzaga football in the second half. It’s nothing better than to see teams wear down.”
Woodson, the three-time defending D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association champions, went toe-to-toe with the Eagles’ starters in the first half. Though Gonzaga struck first on a nifty throwback screen pass to senior Patrick Hesse, the Warriors responded with their own touchdown drive on a two-yard run by quarterback Khalil Wright.
Woodson (8-5) even slowed down Randolph temporarily, led by junior defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman, and nearly took the lead when Wright was stopped at the 1-yard line on the final play before halftime.
But whether it was McCaleb dislodging a Woodson helmet with a ferocious hit near the goal line to cause an incompletion or defensive lineman NaSheed Bridgeman limping to the sideline after an illegal chop-block and then returning to the field to collect a sack off a bull rush after sitting out just one snap, Gonzaga’s brute force proved overwhelming.
Bridgeman capped the carnage with a little singing, leading teammates in a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” as they collected the championship trophy.
Nothing could keep them from getting back to this title.