Game 8 vs Good Counsel (2015)

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Gonzaga forces four turnovers, pulls away from Good Counsel to remain unbeaten

The Eagles soar past the Falcons in the second half to remain undefeated on the season. (Video by Brandon Martin for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)
By Brandon Parker October 24
Joseph Zuccari stared at his hands in disbelief as he halted his stride across the middle of the field during Friday’s fourth quarter, bits of frustration emitting with each hard step into the turf.

By that point in Gonzaga’s 32-13 win at No. 13 Good Counsel, the Falcons were on the ropes, relying heavily on their passing to muster a rally and giving the Eagles defensive backs opportunities like the one Zuccari had just missed by dropping a potential interception.

“I really wanted that one, but sometimes, mistakes are made in the secondary,” Zuccari said. “I knew they would have to keep throwing, so I just had to pick myself up and be ready when it counts.”
One play later, Zuccari remained at the ready, jumping a route to snag a pick and setting up Tyree Randolph’s ensuing 37-yard touchdown run. The sequence marked Gonzaga’s fourth forced turnover of the night and third touchdown during a 25-point, second-half onslaught that turned a tied score at halftime into another convincing conference win for the No. 2 Eagles in Olney.

A week after stifling then-No. 1 DeMatha by forcing four miscues, Gonzaga’s defense held last year’s other Washington Catholic Athletic Conference finalist in check with another stout performance on the road.

The spark for Friday’s effort came in the waning moments of the first half. After the Falcons (5-3, 3-2 WCAC) drove to the Gonzaga 9-yard line, Mitchell Johns stepped in front of a pass for the first of his two interceptions to keep the score tied at 7. With Good Counsel set to receive the second-half kickoff, the play proved especially critical and left one teammate beckoning for more.

“We didn’t come out the way we wanted, so our senior captain Kyle Taylor really pumped us at halftime,” Johns said. “He said we needed to pick it up and get it going because we knew we could play better than that.”

The unit responded by holding Good Counsel without a first down during the third quarter, and Johns recorded his second interception. Bolstered by that lights-out effort, Gonzaga’s offense used the subsequent short field to gain steam behind the explosive rushing of Randolph (207 yards, two touchdowns) and efficient passing of Sam Brown (two touchdowns).

The Eagles (8-0, 5-0) scored on all three of their third-quarter possessions to break open the game. Good Counsel, on the other hand, received another blow in its push to manufacture scoring drives when top rusher Mohamed Ibrahim (108 rushing yards) was sidelined by cramps for most of the final quarter.

With the win, Gonzaga positioned itself to clinch the first of four WCAC playoff berths next week against Carroll, continuing the success of a season that many thought would be a rebuilding year following the graduation of 14 starters.

“Our coaches have really been preparing us, and we have great leadership,” said Zuccari, who also had a fumble recovery. “We’ve just been taking it one game at a time and focusing on every challenge so we can give our all.”

 

The Post Top 20: Gonzaga ascends to No. 1; Episcopal, Champe join the rankings

October 26 at 10:55 AM

1. Gonzaga (8-0) Last week: 2

The nationally ranked Eagles take over the top spot after their defense forced four turnovers in a 32-13 road win over then-No. 13 Good Counsel. Next up: Saturday vs. Carroll (4-4), 2 p.m.

 

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