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DeMatha tops Gonzaga in WCAC
(Published December 1, 2003)

Special to The Common Denominator

The Gonzaga Eagles dropped a 23-3 decision to the powerhouse DeMatha Stags in the 2003 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference football championship game. The contest was played Nov. 21 at the University of Marylandís Byrd Stadium.

One year earlier, the Eagles had defeated the Stags 12-7 to claim the 2002 championship trophy.

Gonzaga, coached by Kenny Lucas, finished the current campaign 7-4 overall (5-2 WCAC) -- behind only DeMatha (7-0) and Good Counsel (6-1) in the WCAC regular season standings.

DeMatha, coached by veteran Bill McGregor, opened the game with a bang when Stag receiver Derrick McPhearson ripped off a 61-yard kickoff return on the opening play. Four plays later Matt Campbell booted a 28-yard field goal to give DeMatha a 3-0 lead.

"We did a great job to keep them out of the endzone on that initial drive. Give a lot of credit to the all-senior defensive line [Luke Warring, Justin Scurlock, Manuel Marshall and Robert Garvis]," said coach

The game remained 3-0 until the final minutes of the first half. DeMatha turned the ball over on downs at the Gonzaga 18 yard line. Eagle junior running back Joe Taylor, who has rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, pounded the ball for 26 yards on five successive carries to give the Eagles a first and 10 from the Gonzaga 44 yard line. Two plays later, senior quarterback Brian Hogan connected with senior wide receiver Eddie Sniezek on a 36-yard pass to set up Gonzaga with another first down just inside the DeMatha 12 yard line. Three consecutive passes fell incomplete and sophomore placekicker John Sniezek headed to the field. John Sniezek, Eddieís brother, calmly booted a 29-yard field goal with 52 seconds remaining before halftime -- and the teams headed to the locker room deadlocked 3-3.

"I would have loved to have had seven points on that drive, but Iíll take three versus zero," said coach Lucas.

Gonzaga senior wide receiver/defensive back Bernie McKeever said optimism prevailed at halftime for the Eagles. "We were right there with them at halftime. We really thought we had a good chance to win the game," he said.

Following an Eagle punt to open the third quarter, the Stags moved 22 yards on four plays and scored the game's decisive touchdown when running back Anthony Wiseman beat the Eagle defense to the left pylon from 16 yards out. Following Campbellís point after touchdown, DeMatha led 10-3.

DeMatha fumbled the ball away at one point in the third quarter, with Gonzaga senior Pat Hamm recovering it. But the Eagles failed to capitalize on the Stags' mistake.

DeMatha marched 72 yards on nine plays and found the endzone again when Wiseman scored off the left side from seven yards out. Campbellís boot made it 17-3 with 9:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.

"Our defense seemed to have been on the field for a majority of the game," said coach Lucas.

Wiseman scored his third touchdown on the night with 6:03 remaining in the game. Campbellís kick was wide. Nevertheless, the Stags led by the final margin of 23-3.

"They brought in some fresh legs during the second half. Their offense made some plays. Our kids played well, but we didnít capitalize on our opportunities. I will always support these players. They played hard and they didnít quit," said coach Lucas.

Gonzaga started off the 2003 season with a 1-2 record, but won five of its final six regular season games to advance to the playoffs.

"We came together as a team. We built some real momentum as the season developed," said second-team All-Conference two-way lineman Robert Garvis.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator