During this, his fourth year as coach at his alma mater, Calvert Hall coach, Donald Davis, has been having a milestone season.
For not only have his Cardinals won more games than ever during his tenure, but they entered Friday night’s game opposite visiting, MIAA Conference rival, McDonogh, in the thick of the league title chase.
Davis, however, never had beaten an Eagles’ team, which is coached by Dom Damico.
Calvert Hall overcame a two-point halftime deficit, scored 21 unanswered points and coasted to a 28-15 victory before a boisterous home crowd.
In victory, the Cardinals rose to 9-1 overall, and, 3-1 in the league, moving ahead of conference rival Gilman (2-1) and even with Georgetown Prep, which is also 3-1 in the MIAA.
The Greyhounds, a 26-21 loser to Calvert Hall, play league nemesis Mount St. Joseph on Saturday, while the Little Hoyas have St. Albans of Washington, D.C. in a non-conference game.
The Cardinals thwarted a high-scoring offense by the Eagles (6-3, 1-3) that includes junior quarterback Joel Jorgensen (149 passing yards), senior running back Evan Grant (91 rushing yards) and senior receiver Denzell Walker (three receptions, 59 yards), none of whom crossed the goal line for a touchdown.
“This is no knock or slight to the rest of the guys in this league, because [Georgetown Prep’s] Dan Paro does a great job, and [Mount St. Joseph’s] Blake Henry is going to be a good one, and [Gilman’s] Biff Poggi sets the standard for the league,” said Davis.
“But I believe that Dom Damico is as good a head football coach as there is around,” said Davis. “So to have an opportunity to play this game, and to have our team come around on top is just an honor and I’m humbled to have an opportunity to do that.”
The Cardinals trailed for the only time, 9-7, entering the third quarter, yet returned to the field more energized following a number of halftime speeches, according to junior quarterback Thomas Stuart.
“At halftime, we had a lot of inspirational speeches from the seniors. It’s their last home game, and all of the seniors did a [heck of a] job,” said Stuart, who was 13-for-19 for 120 yards, even as he was intercepted once each by Eagles’ sophomores Jabari Weems and Taysean Scott.
“Everybody put everything that they had into the practice this week. In the second half, we ran the ball and passed the ball out of the spread really well,” said Stuart. “The center didn’t have any bad snaps tonight. He was perfect. We were able to come right down the field in the third quarter. It was just a great team effort by everyone.”
In addition, the Cardinals were also more prepared, said assistant coach Ed Holshue, after having made some defensive adjustments.
“We were going with a three-man front and working some nickel coverage and going with some dime coverage. They run the football well with Grant, who reads very well. But with the three men we had in there, he was still finding those lanes to run in,” said Holshue.
“We knew that we had to play coverage, because they’re a great passing team, but we also had to stop the run. We felt like, in the secondary, we had good athletes who would match up well with their kids,” said Holshue. “So we put in another lineman and took out a linebacker for a four-man front. That helped us with the edge players, closed some of the running lanes, still gave us a good pass rush, and we didn’t blitz him anymore and took the hot reads away.”
Defensively for the Cardinals, seniors Cesar Diaz and Donnie Hochrein registered one sack each, as did sophomore Delando Johnson, and with one interception each for senior Adrian Amos and junior Will Johnson.
“In the first half, we were trying to stop them in the middle. That wasn’t going so well. But our great coaches realized that we needed to use our edge players. In that second half, they wanted the ends in,” said Diaz.
“I was given a shot, and I took the opportunity, and I’m a senior, and this is my last chance playing,” said Diaz. “So we were working that edge, and they froze and didn’t seem to know what to do. It was a great call by our coaches.”
The Cardinals took the opening drive of the second half 68 yards in 12 plays before sophomore Garrett Keene’s 2-yard run was followed by senior Matt Levis’ second of four extra-point kicks for a 14-9 lead with 9:01 on the clock.
A 9-yard scoring run by junior Brandon Neverdon, for a lead of 21-9, as time elapsed in the third quarter, capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive by the Cardinals.
Next, Amos stepped in front of a pass by Jorgensen at the Eagles’ 29-yard line and returned it the McDonogh 7.
Two plays later, Stuart’s 2-yard run had the Cardinals up by a commanding, 28-9, with 6:54 left to play.
“They ran that same play earlier in the game, but this time, I just jumped it,” said Amos. “I just jumped the route.”
Jorgensen’s 4-yard scoring pass to sophomore Kyle Simmons was good for the final margin with 1:35 left to play.
“They run all spread and trip sets, and no tight end, so we knew that it was all on our defensive backs. We knew that if we shut them down, we win,” said Amos. “Our offense picked it up in the second half, and our defense held them, basically, throughout the second half until the final two minutes when they scored their last touchdown.”
The Cardinals led, 7-0, at 5:53 of the first quarter after Stuart’s 16-yard scoring pass to junior Garrett Flannery, who snagged the ball at around the Eagles’ 10-yard line, trucked a defender prior to the 5-yard line, and dove into the end zone.
“I rolled out, and their big No. 18 [Allen Jackson] and No. 74 [Roman Braglio] were right behind me, so I was thinking, ‘I had better get rid of the ball,'” said Stuart. “So I hit Garrett Flannery, and he just ran over their corner back and got in. I was amazed with that play.”
The Eagles were within, 7-6, at 11:51 of the second quarter following Jorgensen’s 16-yard strike to junior Miles Crump, but their subsequent conversion pass attempt failed.
After forcing the Calvert Hall to punt on its next possession, the Eagles drove to the 66 yards before Jorgensen threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior Austin Berg, only to have it nullified by a penalty for having an illegal receiver down field.
Two plays later, Johnson intercepted Jorgensen.
The Eagles forced the Cardinals to punt, yet again, with 2:40 left in the half, later, settling for a 37-yard field goal by junior Evan Glaser — and a 9-7 halftime lead — 34 seconds prior to the intermission.
“I’m just really happy for these kids, because they have memories that will last for them and that will be carried for the rest of their lives. That’s really the joy and the beauty of high school athletics is that these kids can create memories that they will have into their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s and beyond,” said Davis.
“I’m just happy that these guys have had the opportunity to create those memories this year,” said Davis, whose Eagles play Red Lion, Pa., in a week, and, rival Loyola, on Thanksgiving Day. “Right now, we have to get ready for a game on Friday night in hostile territory. Red Lion has a kid that is committed to Auburn, and they’ve got some talent. But to just get one win in our league is a huge accomplishment.”
|No. 3 Calvert Hall 28, No. 12 McDonogh 15|
|CH-Flannery 16 pass from Stuart (Levi kick)|
|McD-Crump 16 pass from Jorgenson (run failed)|
|McD-Glaser 37 FG|
|CH-Keene 2 run (Levis kick)|
|CH-Neverdon 9 run (Levis kick)|
|CH-Stuart 1 run (Levis kick)|
|McD-Simmons 4 pass from Jorgenson (pass failed)|