St. Joe’s Prep smacks around Gonzaga (DC) 35-3
Maybe some good surfaced from last week’s loss. In a twisted way, maybe having its 18-game winning streak dating back to 2019 snapped ignited something dormant within the St. Joseph’s Prep team that needed to be kicked around a little to hit the refocus switch.
Because the Hawks made very easy work of visiting Gonzaga (DC) Friday night, 35-3, at Penn’s historic Franklin Field, behind a stifling defense and an offense that couldn’t be stopped in the first half.
Sophomore quarter Samaj Jones rushed for a game-high 100 yards on 10 carries, and junior linebacker Cole Nilles caused chaos all over the field.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the victory was it seemed the Hawks (2-1 overall) regained their mojo.
Gonzaga entered the game undefeated, at 3-0, but the Eagles first three opponents were a combined 1-7, while Prep’s two opening games were against teams that were a combined 3-4.
No matter, the Hawks’ victory was another step in making a young team more complete.
“We came out, we had the right scheme and we practiced well,” Jones said. “Coming off a loss, it’s always the best week of practice. I think we learned about adversity and what it’s like to have a chip on our shoulders going into the fight.”
Nilles and the Hawks’ defense moved well Friday night.
“We spent a lot of time as a team watching film and working on communicating,” Nilles said. “Tonight, we had a really good first half, and in the second half, we missed some tackles, but we still played great.”
The game was essentially over by halftime. Gonzaga was moving at one speed, while the Hawks were operating at light speed. The Eagles couldn’t do anything offensively the first two quarters against the smaller, quicker St. Joe’s Prep defense.
Offensively, the Hawks needed only three plays to score on their first possession, the bulk of which came on Jones’ 59-yard touchdown run with 10:44 left in the first quarter.
St. Joe’s Prep didn’t let up. The Hawks needed four plays on their second series to get into the end zone. The score was set up by junior linebacker Cole Nilles’ fumble recovery at the Gonzaga 23.
From there, Jones converted a third-and-three with a 16-yard run to the Eagles’ 5. Two plays later, Jones hit sophomore tailback Rahseim Phillips with an 8-yard TD pass with 9:20 left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead.
On the Hawks’ third possession, Jones directed a seven-play, 39-yard drive that culminated in senior running back Josh Barlow’s 2-yard score with 4:44 left in the opening quarter.
St. Joe’s Prep ended the half with a very impressive 15-play, 6-minute drive, which resulted in another Barlow 2-yard touchdown with 3:15 left in the half. All Gonzaga would settle for in the entire game was a 35-yard James Miller field goal with 9:21 left in the second quarter.
Prep’s defense sacked Gonzaga quarterback Carson Petitbon seven times for minus-63 yards.
“This was huge, and we have a young group that refocused and for a young, adversity sometimes is a good thing,” Hawks’ coach Tim Roken said. “As a whole program, we looked ourselves in the mirror. We still have to clean some things up in the second half. We got back to playing our ball and we have a bye week to clean those things up.
“We’re grateful for the win and get ready for the Catholic League schedule.”
Gonzaga (DC) (3-1) 0 3 0 0-3
St. Joe’s Prep (2-1) 21 7 0 7-35
SJP – Samaj Jones 59-yard run (Antonio Chadha kick), 10:44
SJP – Rahseim Phillips 8 pass from Jones (Chadha kick), 9:20
SJP – Josh Barlow 2 run (Chadha kick), 4:44
Gon – James Miller 35 FG, 9:21
SJP – Barlow 2 run (Chadha kick), 3:15
SJP – Barlow 7 run (Chadha kick), 2:20
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
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