What We Learned: Gonzaga takes down DeMatha behind Caleb Williams

Photo: Gonzaga TD Club

In a rematch of last year’s WCAC championship game, Gonzaga again got the edge, defeating DeMatha 28-26.

A daring fourth-down conversion attempt less than three yards from the goal line in the fourth quarter gave Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) the touchdown and a 14-point lead, and when MarShawn Lloyd returned the ensuing kickoff to the house, Gonzaga blocked the point-after attempt.

The Eagles also prevented a two-point conversion after freshman DeMatha (Hyattsville, Maryland) quarterback Cam Edge drove the Stags down field and put them in position to tie.

Gonzaga quarterback Caleb Williams finished with four touchdowns, three of them rushing, as he led the way and helped Gonzaga get back into the win category after a five-overtime loss last week to Good Counsel (Olney, Maryland).

Here are some takeaways:

Gonzaga is BOLD.

With a little more than seven minutes remaining in the game, Gonzaga lined up to attempt a fourth-down conversion from the three-yard line.

In a one-possession game midway through the fourth quarter, just going for the three points seems logical. It’s risky to go for the fourth-down conversion. If it were to fail, DeMatha would have had plenty of time to get down field.

But a hard count drew DeMatha offsides, and with the distance to the goal cut in half, Williams ran it home.

A coupe aspects may have played a role in going for the touchdown, in addition to the penalty.

DeMatha’s quarterback Edge had sparked DeMatha with a touchdown in the third quarter, but he’s a still freshman. It’s tough to expect an inexperienced player to deliver a game-winning drive starting inside his own five-yard line. (Edge did lead a touchdown drive in the final minute – more on this later).

The other aspect was Caleb Williams.

Caleb Williams

The lasting image from last year’s championship game is the Hail Mary thrown by Caleb Williams.

In this matchup, the lasting image will be of his legs.

Williams scored a 80-yard touchdown to take a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, evading several tacklers on the way. He had another great run, cutting to the outside and getting past defenders, for a run of about 20 yards to set up his second rushing touchdown of the day. On third-and-three at the end of the third quarter, he took his time setting up the play, evaded a couple guys and got around for the first down.

Now let’s get back to that fourth-down conversion at the goal line. The play call, a runner sweeping right and then Williams keeping the ball and going left, had been used in overtime last week. It was a play call the team knew works. It did this time too.

Of course, Williams’ arm was on show too. How about that throw called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield in which he released off-balance as he was getting hit? The penalty nixed perhaps his most impressive throw of the game.

Cam Edge looks like a future DeMatha star

If the Eagles truly didn’t expect Edge to come through when DeMatha needed him most, they were wrong. Even after sitting on the bench for a long time after two Gonzaga drives sandwiched the Lloyd kickoff return touchdown, the freshman stayed hot.

Edge was calm and poised in the pocket as he led a drive without any timeouts that left DeMatha a mere two-point conversion away from tying the game.

In starting quarterback Malachi Anthony’s final drive of the game, he took a sack on third-and-11. On the ensuing drive, Gonzaga scored a touchdown to increase its lead to 21-7. DeMatha switched it up to see if Edge could get the offense moving.

Edge can get rid of it quickly and he throws it hard. After a few throws of medium length and a short one, he got the ball over the defense and hit Josh Dodd on a seam route for a 49-yard touchdown. It was one of two touchdown drives for Edge.

Whether or not DeMatha sticks with Anthony moving forward this year, it looks like the Stags have a quarterback who can lead the team for the next three.

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