No. 2 Eagles close in MIAA A football playoffs second-seed; Walsh answers call again (VIDEO HERE!!)

McDonogh running back Jabril Johnson runs through an opening during the first half of Saturday’s MIAA A Conference football contest against Mount St. Joseph. Johnson scored twice as the second-ranked Eagles improved to 3-1 in league play with a 37-7 decision over No. 7 Gaels in Baltimore City.

Depth is always a concern for McDonogh School’s football team. Except at quarterback.

Nathan Walsh has been an unsung hero as the backup signal caller. With Dejuan Ellis out Saturday, Walsh guided the second-ranked Eagles to a 37-7 victory over No. 7 Mount St. Joseph in a MIAA A Conference match at Pleyvak Field in Irvington.

Walsh threw for two scores and ran for another for the Eagles (6-2 overall, 3-1 MIAA A), and Giovanni Procaccini rushed for 84 yards. Juan Mendoza’s 63-yard run in the fourth quarter represented the Gaels’ lone score.

The Owings Mills school built a 30-0 halftime advantage, tightening its grip on second-place in the area’s toughest league. The top four teams in the standings will advance to next month’s postseason playoffs.. Juan Mendoza’s fourth quarter 63-yard run represented the Gaels’ only score.

McDonogh, which all but locked up a spot with Saturday’s victory, is hoping to get healthy for the pivotal stretch run. Senior defensive back/wide receiver BJ Farrare is out for the remainder of the regular season with a broken bone in his foot. Defensive back Darius Pickett is expected back from a shoulder injury along with Ellis, a Virginia Tech Univeristy commit, also nursing a shoulder injury.

Walsh, who has shared time with Ellis this season, completed five of nine attempts for 144 yards with scoring throws of four and 18 yards to sophomore Curtis Jacobs. Arguably his best relief performance came in last season’s season opener at Gonzaga College (DC) where he threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes, helping the Eagles to a 32-29 victory.

“He has an uncanny poise for a guy who doesn’t get a lot of reps. He’s just reliable,” said McDonogh coach Dom Damico. “He’s like a veteran backup quarterback in the NFL. You know when he goes in there, he’s going to make good decisions.”

“We’re all willing to step up at anytime,” said Walsh. “When someone goes down, you just go in there and do the best you can.”

Junior Sa’id Rahim, filling in for Farrare, intercepted a pass along with junior linebacker Jackson Bonitz, who returned to action after a suffering a leg contusion against top-ranked St. Frances Academy two weeks ago. The Eagles produced 16 points off three Gael turnovers Saturday.

A few plays after Jabril Johnson’s touchdown run opened the scoring for the Eagles, Bonitz stripped Gaels quarterback William Atkins. After a scramble, Mount St. Joseph linemen Pat Fitzmaurice fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety.

The first came on a safety when the Eagles tackled Gaels quarterback William Atkins just as he started to pass. The ball came loose and after a scramble for it, Gaels lineman Pat Fitzmaurice fell on it in the end zone.

McDonogh took the ensuing free kick and went 38 yards in five plays as Walsh found Jacobs (three catches, 78 yards) in the back corner of the end zone. Walsh keyed the drive with a 27-yard pass to Jack Simmons (two catches, 66 yards) on 3rd-and-7.

Rahim snatched the ball from a Gael receiver and returned it to Mount St. Joseph’s 9. Three plays later, Johnson crossed the goal line from four yards for his second score.

Bonitz intercepted Atkins deep in Gaels’ territory with just 15 seconds left in the first half. Walsh lofted a pass to the corner where Jacobs pulled it down with no time remaining. The Eagles started a running clock with less than nine minutes left in regulation as Walsh capped a 58-yard drive with a two-yard score.

Walsh credited his offensive line featuring sophomore Marcus Oliver, Will Knuttson, Parker Robinson, sophomore Cole Kirol and senior PJ Mustipher. The Eagles’ defensive front with Mustipher, a Penn State commit, senior Chris Smith, junior Dvon Ellies, Jared Altice and Griffin Catlett, held the Gaels to just 20 yards rushing outside of Mendoza’s run.

The Eagles have been fortunate to be healthy on both sides of the line.

“Football at all levels is won up front and our d-line is very dominant,” said Damico. “That’s the strength of our team.”

Mendoza finished with 79 yards and Michael McDonald intercepted two passes. After a promising start including a victory over perennial Washington Catholic Athletic Conference power Good Counsel, Mount St. Joseph (5-3, 2-2 MIAA A) has struggled the last few weeks.

“We’re just making too many mistakes consistently,” said Gaels coach Rich Holzer. “I guess some of that comes with youth and inexperience. Hopefully it’s part of the learning process for our younger kids.”

Senior quarterback Nathan Walsh (left) accounted for three touchdowns and Sa’id Raim setup a touchdown with an interception for McDonogh. The Eagles are second in the MIAA A behind St. Frances Academy.

Mount St. Joseph will likely need to win at least one of its final two matches to qualify for the MIAA A playoffs. The Gaels have St. Frances at Patterson Park Friday and host fourth-ranked Archbishop Spalding Nov. 4

McDonogh closes the regular season with Calvert Hall College and Gilman School. The Eagles can lock up the No. 2 seed with a win.

No. 2 McDonogh School 37, No. 7 Mount St. Joseph 7

McDonogh 16 14 0 7 – 37

Mount St. Joseph 0 0 0 7 – 7

First quarter

McDonogh – Johnson 4 run (Beattie kick)

McDonogh – Safety

McDonogh – Jacobs 4 pass from Walsh (Beattie kick)

Second quarter

McDonogh – Johnson 4 run (Beattie kick)

McDonogh – Jacobs 18 pass from Walsh (Beattie kick)

Fourth quarter

McDonogh – Walsh 2 run (Beattie kick)

Mount St. Joseph – Mendoza 63 run (Atkins kick)