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Aiken and Hoyas prepare for home opener
One should never underestimate the power of team camaraderie. After starting senior quarterback Isaiah Kempf went down with a concussion on Saturday, Georgetown’s football team (1-0) rallied behind its fallen captain to win the season opener at Davidson 35-14.
The Hoyas were led by junior Nick Campanella, who posted career-highs of 127 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Junior quarterback Aaron Aiken, who stepped in for Kempf, ran for 109 yards and completed 8-of-21 passes, good for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Early in the first quarter, Kempf was taken out by the Davidson defense with a vicious blow to the head. He is officially listed as “week-to-week,” but is out for this Saturday’s home opener against Wagner. The injury motivated the Hoyas, particularly Campanella.
“It put a little fire in me,” the running back said. “It’s never nice when you see someone go down. That put a little spark in me and everyone on our team.”
The results, despite their power, were not immediate. On Georgetown’s next drive, Aiken threw an interception. The Wildcats passed for a touchdown on their ensuing drive, to take a 7-0 lead.
“It was a little nerve racking. It wasn’t a good way to start,” Aiken said of his inauspicious first drive. “But I think that as a player, one of the things I have learned is that you have to let things go.”
Aiken responded by rushing for 32 yards and hurling a 48-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Kevin Macari on the following drive. After junior kicker Matt MacZura’s extra point, the score was 7-7 with five minutes left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Campanella grabbed the lead for the Hoyas on the first of his three touchdown runs. He bounced to the right side and sprinted for a career-best 53 yards.
That touchdown gave Georgetown a 14-7 lead, one they would never relinquish. On Georgetown’s second drive of the second half, Aiken completed passes of 18 and 37 yards to get the Hoyas inside the 10-yard line. Campanella would then push the ball into the end zone from two yards out to extend the lead to 14 points.
The Hoyas continued rolling as a blocked punt by freshman linebacker Tyler Parsons gave them superb field position at the Davidson 32-yard line. Nine plays later, Aiken flicked a short pass to Campanella, who beat a defender to score his third touchdown of the day.
Late in the fourth quarter, Davidson put together a long drive that ended in a 15-yard touchdown pass. Georgetown gained the ball at the Davidson 47-yard line after the Wildcats’ ensuing onside kick failed. Campanella would then explode for another long touchdown run, this time a 45-yarder. Campanella’s fourth touchdown ended any Davidson threat as the game finished 35-14.
Davidson’s running attack was virtually non-existent as Georgetown’s defense forced Davidson to negative 18 yards. The Hoyas also held Wildcats’ eighth-ranked passing offense to only 226 yards. Senior linebacker Robert McCabe led Georgetown with 17 tackles, including three for a loss.
Campanella echoed that the team’s stellar performance and his career day were partially due to the inspiration from Kempf’s injury.
“We all rallied behind Isaiah,” he said. “I think we all felt like it was for him.”
Still, the junior was humble about his monstrous line in the box score, one that earned him the title of Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week.
“The injury sparked the linemen more than anything,” he said. “The line opened up the holes and made it easier for me to find them.”
The Hoyas host Wagner (0-1) in their home opener this Saturday at 1 p.m. on Multi-Sport Field.
“It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it,” Aiken said. “We want to kick off the campaign at home with a big win.”
Georgetown’s potent rushing attack of Campanella and Aiken will certainly be tested this Saturday. Wagner only allowed 164 rushing yards and one passing touchdown against FBS opponent Florida Atlantic in its 7-3 loss last Friday.
“Wagner is going to be a very tough opponent,” Aiken said. “They are very athletic, but I feel like we definitely can go out there, handle our business, and get the ‘W.’”
But will that effort include another huge day from Campanella? He wouldn’t say, nor he seem to care all that much.
“I just want to get the ‘W,’” he said.