Loyola's Brad Hoag gave credit where it was due.
The Dons' junior running back rushed for 65 yards and scored two touchdowns in helping his team to a 29-12 victory over Calvert Hall yesterday at Memorial Stadium.
It was the 71st renewal of the Thanksgiving Day rivalry. Loyola now leads the series, 33-30. There have been eight ties.
"Calvert Hall was really stuffing us from tackle to tackle," said Hoag. "In the first half, I kept heading outside [on option pitch sweeps]. In the second half, the gaps got wider and wider, thanks to our offensive line and Calvert Hall's aggressive pursuit, and I was able to cut back.
"On the last one [a 13-yard scoring run], I wasn't even touched."
If Hoag had a big day, so did did sophomore quarterback Billy Evans. A product of the Overlea-Fullerton recreation program, Evans repeatedly fooled the Cardinals' defense with his slick ball-handling.
"Billy's still young and makes sophomore mistakes at times," said coach Joe Brune, "but he is clever with his faking."
Evans said he expected to be throwing the ball more yesterday than he had this season because Calvert Hall figured to key on the running game, but even he did not anticipate running so many option plays.
Evans completed two key passes to senior tight end Reggie Thornton. The first was a 9-yard first down pass that set up the Dons' initial score. The second was a 10-yard pass that Thornton caught at the 1-yard line and bulled through three Cardinals defenders for the touchdown. That gave the Dons a 22-0 lead with 4:24 remaining in the first half.
With senior nose guard Brian Doyle anchoring the defense, the Dons were in command until Brune allowed his players to talk him into a no-huddle series to open the third quarter.
"I try to let them [players] have a say in what we do and they wanted to run the no-huddle series," said Brune.
"We got away from what we had been doing successfully and it hurt us a little bit," said Doyle, analyzing the third quarter when Calvert Hall scored twice to cut the Dons' lead to 22-12. The Cardinals capitalized on a blocked punt by Joe Antonelli to set up one touchdown, a Bryan Healy to Ed Grant pass, and then forced a short, hurried punt to set up Will Harcum's 30-yard RTC sweep for another score.
"The early mistakes, especially having 12 men on the field on our punt return unit, killed us," said Calvert Hall coach Bill Mackley. "We're still young and we'll have to turn those negatives into positives for next year."
Brune's son, Colin, was instrumental in breaking up several Calvert Hall passes from his defensive end position.
"I did get a bit nervous in that third quarter when they came back at us," said the junior end.
He needn't have worried. Jeff Rhines took a Calvert Hall punt at midfield and returned it to the 34. After two first downs, Hoag caught the Cards in a blitz and cut back 13 yards to slip untouched into the end zone. Chris Ginter's second point-after of the day made it 29-12.
The elder Brune praised the defensive leadership of Doyle.
"He's called Coach," said Brune. "He's got a good head on his shoulders and has made a lot of big plays for us all year."
The Dons finished 7-2, a game behind co-champs Gilman and Poly in the MSA A Conference. Furthermore, they were the only team to defeat Poly this season. That's something to boast about, just like beating Calvert Hall on Thanksgiving Day.