By Kevin Askeland
SAN ANTONIO - This was supposed to be a rebuilding year at Georgetown, but coach Phil Blue and the Eagles never got the memo.
Georgetown completely dominated the first half against the San Antonio Southwest Dragons in winning the opening game of the Texas Football Classic 35-13 on Thursday at the Alamodome.
The Eagles lost 53 lettermen from last year’s 6-4 team and returned just 11, seven of whom were starters. Meanwhile Southwest returned 29 lettermen and 11 starters and was selected as the team to win its district by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
But the Eagles took control from the very start, scoring on their first two drives and taking a 21-0 lead by halftime.
“We are getting to be a pretty large school, so we are going to be losing a lot of kids each year,” Blue said. “But we want to get to the point where it doesn’t matter too much how many kids we lose. We have a young team this year, but they kept their composure tonight and played hard the whole game.”
The Eagles were able to build the early lead by mixing up the run and the pass on offense and stopping the running game of the Dragons, which featured standout running back Stephen Salinas.
Georgetown senior quarterback Garrett Gilleland put together a masterful first half. He completed 13 of 15 passes for 138 yards and also carried four times for 56 yards. Gilleland scored the first Eagle touchdown on a 10-yard run in the first quarter and got the second on a 14-yard pass to David Kerr in the back of the end zone late in the opening stanza.
Gilleland finished the game with 196 yards passing, completing 18 of 21 passes with two scores. He was named the game’s MVP.
“He’s really improved his game now that we got him some coaching,” Blue said. “I’ve been the quarterbacks coach, but we decided to get him someone who knew what they were doing and coach (Chuck) Griffin is doing a great job with Garrett.”
Besides Gilleland, the Eagles got 99 yards from senior running back Austin Alexander in the first half, including a 44-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds left in the first half that gave Georgetown a 21-0 halftime lead.
By halftime, Georgetown led the Dragons in nearly every statistical category, including passing yards (138 to 24), rushing yards (155 to 44) and xylophones in the band (9 to 6).
“We had a tremendous morning workout and I just had a feeling that we would get off to a good start,” Blue said.
It didn’t get any better for Southwest to start the second half. Georgetown kicker Branson Smith pooched the opening kick just past the forward wall of the Dragon kickoff team and Matt Bell was there to recover the loose ball for Georgetown.
The Eagles scored six plays later with Gilleland finding Cal Spangler on a 14-yard touchdown pass. Smith kicked the fourth of his five extra points for a 28-0 lead.
Then Smith and Bell worked their magic again. Smith placed another kick into no-man’s land and Bell recovered at the Southwest 40.
That’s when Southwest got its first break of the game. Georgetown was whistled for offsides on the kickoff, negating Bell’s recovery. The Dragons recovered the next kick and took advantage of a couple of 15-yard penalties on the Eagles to score their first touchdown on a 5-yard run by Salinas.
The Eagles fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Southwest took over at the Georgetown 35. Seven plays later Salinas was in the end zone on an 11-yard run.
The two runs were the highlight for Salinas who had a tough time breaking loose against the swarming Georgetown defense. Salinas finished with 81 yards on 26 carries.
“We have had one of the top defenses in the district for the past couple of years,” Blue said. “We take pride in being able to stop the running game.”
With Southwest closing to within 15 points at 28-13, Georgetown suddenly stalled on offense. That gave the Dragons a chance to close the gap early in the fourth quarter.
But Jason Stone and Nick Sioson combined to stop Salinas on a fourth-down run, turning the ball over to the Eagles at their own 42.
Gilleland put the game away by driving Georgetown 58 yards on 10 plays. He started the drive with a 19-yard keeper and then hit Adriane Rocha for a 19-yard game. The catch was the ninth of the game for the junior receiver and stands as the second-highest reception total in Texas Football Classic history.
Alexander culminated the drive when got the Eagles into the end zone on a 5-yard run with 7 minutes, 21 seconds left in the game. Alexander finished with 122 yards on 24 carries.
The Texas Football Classic continues today when Austin Lake Travis takes on Westwood at 7:30 p.m.