There may never have been a high school football game quite like this one.
And that’s no exaggeration.
Sure, the fans of Washington D.C.’s Gonzaga College High School’s Purple Eagles football team brought down a retaining fence after celebrating their huge win against Maryland-based DeMatha Catholic at Cardinal Stadium at Catholic University on Sunday night, USA Today High School Sports and other outlets reported — but that’s only part of the story.
That’s only one small part of it, actually.
“It was a perfect ball from Caleb [Williams, the quarterback], and I just went up there and I got it,” said John Marshall, Gonzaga’s wide receiver, as reported in The Washington Post, about his game-winning grab in the final seconds of the weekend stunner.
“Thank God,” he added.
“It means everything for how hard we worked and the fight that we have in us,” said the 17-year-old quarterback, Caleb Williams, who celebrated his birthday on Sunday, as The Post also noted.
“Now it’s about going and celebrating with the boys and my family.”
But before all the celebrating, before all of the excitement over the unbelievable win, came prayer — and lots of it.
A big swath of family, friends and fans watching the game in the stands could be seen and heard praying the “Our Father” in unison for their team — the Purple Eagles — to pull off a stunning victory in a game nearly everyone assumed the opposing team would win at that point.
The rival schools, ranked numbers one and two in the city, were locked in battle for the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) championship title, as ESPN reported.
The WCAC win represents the first since 2002 for Gonzaga, whose rock-star sophomore quarterback threw a 65-yard Hail Mary pass acrobatically snagged by wide receiver John Marshall in the final seconds of the game to seal the deal.
Here’s how Yahoo Sports put it: “If you want entertaining football, you could watch the NFL or the NCAA. But have you tried the final 45 seconds of this high school football game, which features three lead changes, several incredible catches, and a bonkers Hail Mary to seal the win?”
“The game was between Gonzaga and DeMatha, two high schools in the Washington, D.C., area,” the outlet continued. “They were playing for the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship on Sunday night, and DeMatha was up 36-33 with 45 seconds left. Close football games can get crazy in the final handful of seconds, but Gonzaga and DeMatha took it to a whole new level.”
The final score: Gonzaga 46, DeMatha 43.
The raucous celebration following the jaw-dropping ending took place both in the end zone and in the stands.
A retaining fence separating the athletes on the field from their loyal fans in the stands was no match for the understandably charged-up celebrants.
The fence collapsed, providing a ready metaphor for the power of breaking barriers of every sort.
No one was hurt in the dramatic collapse, as USA Today reported. But the response on social media to the wild win tells the tale.
“Wow!!! What a finish to this HS game. 45 Seconds of Madness” said @Glamma4.
— Koni Kincaid (@Glamma4) November 19, 2018
“This video is a good example of why South Carolina politics is only the second craziest beat I’ve covered, after D.C. high school sports,” said @JsLovegrove.
This video is a good example of why South Carolina politics is only the second craziest beat I've covered, after D.C. high school sportshttps://t.co/kb3qe0d3Mh
— Jamie Lovegrove (@jslovegrove) November 19, 2018
“Greatest game I’ve ever seen,” said @JohnMDonnelly.
Gonzaga College High School wins its first football crown since ‘02, 46-43 over arch rival Dematha. Greatest game I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/7frZaaR2yt
— John M. Donnelly (@johnmdonnelly) November 19, 2018
“People exaggerate the term but Gonzaga DeMatha might be one of the greatest games in a very long time. #WCAC,” said @ZackGibney.
DeMatha (with 0 timeouts left) returned a squibbed kickoff with 0:30 left to play for a 43-40 lead. Then Gonzaga won on a 60-yd hail mary with 0:00 left on the clock.
Maybe the most insane ending I’ve ever seen.
— Kevin Case (@KCase_Closed) November 19, 2018
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.