Gonzaga sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams made his way to the sidelines in front of a rambunctious Eagles student section and crouched low to the ground. Tears trickled down his cheeks Saturday afternoon at St. John's in Upper Northwest as he stared at the scene in front of him.
Teammates were forming a dance circle, coaches were acting like young kids and a sea of purple was caught up in a wave of celebration.
The No. 6 Eagles had taken down top-ranked St. John's, 24-14, in the semifinals of WCAC, earning a spot against DeMatha in the league's championship game next Sunday at Catholic.
"We're just going back to where I always want to be," Williams said. "Back to the championship game."
It hardly came easy – or without controversy.
The Eagles (8-3) built a 17-6 lead late in the third quarter before the Cadets (9-1) rallied. Rakim Jarrett's wide receiver scored a 23-yard touchdown and St. John's converted to two-point conversion with 4:06 remaining.
The Eagles were unable to run the clock, and the Cadets created some late drama – and controversy – when they drove inside the Gonzaga 5-yard line poised for the winning score. The Falcons forced to St. John's running back to Aaron Davis for a touchdown. Cadets coaches argued the runner was down – to no avail.
"It was all happening so fast," Jarrett said. "You win games and lose games and I'm not really upset about the call. If we played like we could have we did not like it last week but we did not do it. "
The win snapped the Eagles to the Cadets – last season's WCAC title game and last week at Gonzaga.
With the rental flipped Saturday, it was the Eagles that had a perfectly executed game plan on a blustery afternoon. Keeping possession of the ball for the majority of the game, Gonzaga relies on the legacy of Williams to eat up the St. John's offense off the field.
The game turned on big plays early, with St. John's safety Quinten Johnson, a Michigan commit, getting a strip and score to give the Cadets a 6-3 lead at halftime.
Williams scored a three-yard touchdown off a left side keeper with 5:12 left in the third for Gonzaga to regain the lead, 10-6. Then Gonzaga wide receiver Dean Engram, a Wisconsin commit, took a St. John's punt for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 17-6 lead with 2:32 left in the third quarter, setting the stage for the fourth-quarter drama.
"It just shows the fight that we have in us," Williams said. "It's the fight we have in ourselves and each other."