22.10.2021

High school football notebook: Freshman QB Caleb Williams has Gonzaga in WCAC title mix

Gonzaga quarterback Caleb Williams completed 14 of 20 passes for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns against DeMatha. (Daniel Kucin Jr./For The Washington Post

In this week’s notebook we cover Gonzaga, Howard, River Hill, Spalding, Wise and Hayfield.

THE SNAP COUNT: THE PLAY OF FRESHMAN QUARTERBACK CALEB WILLIAMS HAS GONZAGA IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WCAC TITLE RACE.

Move over, DeMatha and St. John’s. Gonzaga has a quarterback heady enough to hang with the conference’s best, and he’s only 15 years old.

Williams threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-20 passing in a win over DeMatha, a team with one of the region’s top defenses, on Friday. He was calm in the pocket and accurate downfield. He was patient as he went through progressions and used his feet to get outside the tackles and buy time for receivers.

He put it all on display on this throw, a 38-yard touchdown strike to John Marshall, which turned out to be the game-winning score.

When DeMatha started a 20-point scoring streak to end the game, Gonzaga looked to Williams for a sense of calm and direction, according to teammates.

That kind of poise enables a transformation for the Eagles’ offense. Gonzaga (6-1) leaned on running back Tyree Randolph, the school’s all-time leading rusher, the past two seasons. Now Coach Randy Trivers has entrusted Williams to lead a passing attack that rivals St. John’s for the best in the conference.

“He just proved he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the WCAC as a freshman,” senior defensive tackle Malik Bridgeman said.

Gonzaga will ride that approach for years to come. The Eagles program boasts that its preparation is “different” than others in the region, and Williams’ approach certainly is. His family rented a condo overlooking the Eagles’ field and campus on Eye Street in Northwest Washington, D.C. to make life easier on Caleb during the season. His classes, the weight room, the training room are only an elevator ride away.

His season, and especially his outing against DeMatha, has changed the complexion of the WCAC and has put the rest of the conference on notice. Williams, already very good as a freshman, is going to be around three more years.

» COULD HOWARD COUNTY FEATURE CO-CHAMPIONS? 

Every season, each Howard County team faces 10 of the area’s 11 other schools.

Officials who created the schedule this year decided River Hill, a 2A school with the county’s lowest student population, wouldn’t face Howard, a 4A school with the biggest, Hawks Coach Brian Van Deusen said.

But with both teams undefeated with four games left in the regular season, the prospect of co-county champions looms.

Howard (6-0) defeated Long Reach, 20-6, on Saturday while River Hill beat Mount Hebron, 49-7, on Friday.

The run of success has been more common for the Lions, reigning three-time county and regional champions, in recent seasons. River Hill, though, has found a rhythm similar to their four state championship-winning squads from earlier in the decade.

Howard’s final four opponents combine for a 10-13 record; River Hill’s, 7-16.

In their pursuits of perfect seasons, however, the Hawks won’t get a chance to avenge last year’s 28-7 loss to the Lions.

“We hung in there a little bit last year,” Van Deusen said. “But this year, I think, would be a much better game with our experience and our senior group.”

-Callie Caplan

» DOES HAYFIELD FINALLY HAVE A QB? BYERS LEADS HAWKS TO SHOOTOUT WIN

Hayfield coach Eric Henderson was well aware of what Mount Vernon could do on offense heading into Friday’s game. He had seen the eye-popping point totals put up by the Majors this season, knew they had the potential to score 79 points in a game. But he knew that his team could score a lot of points, to0. The result, as you might imagine, was a shootout.

Despite surrendering 21 points in the first quarter, Hayfield eventually took over the game and won, 63-41, on the back of junior quarterback Monty Byers, who threw for seven touchdowns. The Hawks had used two quarterbacks at times earlier this season but decided to have Byers as their lone signal caller this week.

“It’s his third year and he knows our system well,” Henderson said of Byers. “We trust him with the ball and he really responded this week.”

Byers spread the ball around, connecting with senior tight end Travis Williams on touchdowns of 36 and 48 yards and finding Brian Cobbs and Rayjuon Pringle for an additional two each. A 35-yard score to Jalen Byers completed the quarterback’s big night.

“We had an idea what kind of coverage they’d present us with and we liked some of the matchups with their secondary,” Henderson said. “We just had to get into a rhythm.”

-Michael Errigo

» SPALDING BOUNCES BACK AGAINST FRIENDSHIP COLLEGIATE

It has been a bumpy start for Spalding, alternating wins and losses to arrive at its 3-2 record. Sure, there have been injuries, including to its starting quarterback and right guard, but Coach Kyle Schmitt rejected the idea that injuries are to blame for the losses.

Instead, Schmitt points to the youth of the team in its early stages of maturation in those losses. While the Cavaliers aren’t yet a finished product, he saw them take a big step in the waning moments of Friday night’s 24-20 victory against Friendship Collegiate as the defense forced a turnover on downs in the red zone.

“This team hadn’t quite developed to the standards we hold them to,” Schmitt said. “I thought we went a long way in those last four downs. They needed a little adversity to show that they can respond, and I thought they did that well.”

On second down, a Friendship Collegiate receiver appeared to have a touchdown catch before Spalding defensive back Cody Anderson flew in to jar the ball loose.

“We go by, ‘TTIMD,’ toughest team in Maryland,” said starting quarterback Jayden Umbarger, who ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns in his first start since suffering an injury in the Cavaliers’ Week 2 loss to Good Counsel. “I think we put a stamp on that tonight.”

-Dan Roth

» HOLY PUMAS! WISE BEATS BOWIE, 75-0

Wise’s run through Prince George’s County the past three seasons has included varying degrees of dominance. There was the 55-6 Maryland 4A state title victory over Howard in 2015. There was the 60-0 win over Bladensburg in 2016, and the 57-0 season-opening romp of Surrattsville this season.

But Saturday afternoon in Bowie, the Pumas’ supremacy reached new heights. After 48 minutes of work, Wise boarded the team bus with a 75-0 win.

“I never saw anything like that,” Coach DaLawn Parrish said. “It just got out of hand. It wasn’t a situation where we were trying to score 75 points. It just happened. It seemed like everything we ran worked.”

Quarterback Quinton Williams finished 9-for-12 with 216 yards and five touchdowns through the air. The Pumas amassed 412 total yards of offense. The defense forced three-and out after three-and-out after three-and-out.

The team has devised a points system in practice to promote intrasquad competition. The Pumas, after all, haven’t been tested since Week 2, when they beat Calvert Hall, 15-13. The rest of their victories this year are shutouts.

Wise faces perhaps its stiffest tests the next two weeks with games against Oxon Hill (4-2) and Eleanor Roosevelt (5-1).

-Joshua Needelman

READ THIS

» ‘Don’t you play Madden?’ How the game is helping high school football players

» Week 6 rewind: Game-ending interception helps No. 7 Westfield edge No. 8 Madison, 10-6

» Week 6 rewind: E. Roosevelt gets ahead early and keeps pouring on in 47-0 win over DuVal

» Week 6 rewind: Gonzaga starts fast, holds on late to upset No. 1 DeMatha

KNOW THIS

So, Ricky Slade, the Penn State commit out of Hylton, is really good at football. In case you need more proof, he scored eight – 8! EIGHT! – touchdowns against Colgan on Friday night, which will probably give him the highest fantasy football scoring output you’ve ever seen.

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