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Gonzaga Survives Georgetown Prep Scare

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Gonzaga Survives Georgetown Prep Scare

Mike Shincovich was the start of the day for Gonzaga, winning lineouts, stealing Georgetown lineouts, and scoring a try.

In a very close, perhaps surprisingly close, clash in the MAVRC HS conference, #1 single-school Gonzaga had to come back to beat #13 Georgetown 20-10 Thursday night.

Gonzaga had the run of play for much of the first half but made a series of execution errors that made it difficult to score. 

Possession and momentum swung back and forth over the opening minutes. Gonzaga used the boot of flyhalf Patrick Sheehy to gain field position, only to be countered with return runs by fullback Garrett Lyons and wing Rob Ward.  Prep was using both a combination of backline attacks and forward ball carriers around the breakdown to push up the field. However, it was Gonzaga who eventually sustained pressure inside the Prep 22. After a number of carries from the Gonzaga forwards were thwarted by Prep, Gonzaga moved the ball to the backline where a quick switch to center LJ Koi-Larbi allowed the Eagles to slip in for the first try and a 5-0 lead.

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A few minutes later, Prep applied their own pressure and had Gonzaga backed into their own end. The Gonzaga defense turned over possession, but Prep flyhalf James Lyons was able to pounce on the ensuing tackle and caused the Eagle ball carrier to be penalized for holding on. The penalty was converted by Garrett Lyons, narrowing the gap to 5-3. The game continued to see-saw back and forth over the ensuing minutes. At times the breakdown area got sloppy, with the ball frequently coming loose and both teams poaching effectively against isolated ball carriers.  Gonzaga had a chance to extend their lead at the 20 minute mark, but Sheehy’s penalty attempt sailed wide.

The half closed without further scoring. Both teams were still seeking an attacking advantage. Gonzaga was looking for opportunities to get their big forward pack going with carries from back rowers Joey Freeman, Bailey Ogilvie and Patrick Hesse, while the Prep backline led by Flyhalf James Lyons and center Austin Muss were able to open up some holes in the Gonzaga defense.

Just a few minutes into the second half, Prep took the lead.

Following a series of runs off the edge of the breakdown by the Prep forwards, the ball moved wide to fullback Lyons, who slice through the Eagles defense for a 60-meter run down the left sideline.  Less then ten meters from the tryline he offloaded to wing Ward, who was collar tackled at the line by the last Gonzaga defender, fullback Mark Lewis.  

A dangerous tackle that stops a try is by rule a penalty try, and so it was. Georgetown got a try and a conversion in front of the posts - which Garrett Lyons converted - and Lewis got ten minutes in the sin bin with a yellow card.

Georgetown led 10-5, but in the ensuing shorthanded situation, Gonzaga held firm. Their tackles were solid and they didn’t let Prep find space again. The breakdown area was getting increasingly contentious with both teams producing steals and penalties as a result.  

At 46 minutes Georgetown earned a penalty that they could have kicked over, but instead opted for the kick to touch and the lineout. From that lineout however, Gonzaga lock Mike Shincovich stole the Prep throw and Sheehy cleared the danger with a strong kick to touch.

“Mike was a monster in the lineout,” said Gonzaga Head Coach Peter Baggetta. “He won our throws and stole a lot of lineout ball from them. He was a big factor for us.”

The Gonzaga forwards, led by Captain Dante Lopresti, started putting more pressure on their smaller Prep counterparts, while Prep was looking for ways to break through in the backline and use their mobile forwards in loose play.

Gonzaga survived the man shortage and eventually forced their way down to the Prep line, where they hammered repeatedly at the Prep defense. Prep, led by hooker Rob Saylor and flanker Brian Ferrigno, held firm, but eventually Gonzaga found some space on the edge and fullback Lewis made amends for the high tackle, and slipped in for try. That tied the game 10-10 with 20 minutes to go.

Gonzaga had found their stride in the forwards and were using their size and bulk ground out the remainder of the game. Flanker Ogilvie ducked a tackle and slipped thru the Prep defense he was eventually brought down by a high tackle and Sheehy slotted the penalty kick for a 13-10 Gonzaga lead. 

Georgetown Prep got out of trouble minutes later when No. 8 Patrick Hesse was held up in-goal by flyhalf Lyons. But Gonzaga finally got that points cushion they were looking for when Sheehy poked a kick into the corner and the bounce set up the Gonzaga forwards to apply pressure to the Prep lineout. 

The Gonzaga pack then went to work and eventually Shincovich punched over for a try, which Sheehy converted for the 20-10.

After that, the Gonzaga forwards just ran out the game.

Georgetown Prep's Jack Mortensen and James Lyons tackle Gonzaga center LJ Koi Larbi as flanker Joey Freeman comes in to help.
Georgetown Prep's Austin Muss and James Lyons tackle Gonzaga center LJ Koi Larbi as flanker Joey Freeman comes in to help.

Gonzaga used their size and power well, wearing down the Prep forwards, and got some key kicks from Sheehy at flyhalf to clear pressure and move down field late in the game. Second row Shincovich was a disruptive force at the lineout for the Eagles. High marks to Prep's James Lyons who not only sparked the Prep backline, but was also a force at the defensive breakdown, stealing ball or forcing penalties. Prep center Austin Muss and hooker Rob Saylor were defensive stalwarts, tackling hard and Muss also produced a number of strong carries. 

“It was a really good game, and what I was most pleased about for us was how we responded to pressure,” said Baggetta. “We were behind, we were shorthanded, and we handled it, executed better in the second half, and got the win against a very good Georgetown team.”

Prep has locked in second place in MAVRC and wrapped up their conference games, while Gonzaga has both DeMatha and Salesianum left on the schedule. After facing Dematha next week, Gonzaga heads to Ohio for a pair of tough games against St. Edward's and St. Ignatius.