McDonogh trio has the Eagles on the rise

November 03, 1992|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

The reputations of McDonogh's top three football players, Dennis Badham, Dwayne Stukes and Bobby Sabelhaus, had proceeded them into their game a month ago against then No. 2-ranked Loyola.

But a boisterous group of visiting Loyola fans weren't impressed with the trio's advance billing -- as evidenced by their jeers and heckling.

"I heard them, and it actually made me laugh," said Badham, who caught eight passes for 92 yards, including a diving touchdown catch of Sabelhaus' 9-yard pass in the third quarter that cut Loyola's lead to 14-7.

"It just made me want to make the big catch. Stuff like that only makes us work harder."

Although the Eagles lost, 30-7, it appears that the hard work has paid off.

The Eagles (5-3 overall, 5-2 in the Maryland Scholastic Association) have won three straight games since losing to Loyola, with wins over Gibbons, 12-7, Calvert Hall, 22-21, and Mount St. Joseph, 15-14.

And of the nine sophomores who start for the Eagles, Badham, Sabelhaus and Stukes are among the area's best in various categories.

Sabelhaus, 6 feet 6, 210 pounds, has completed 102 of 183 passes for 1,638 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ranks second among the area's quarterbacks after a week of leading the area.

"Bobby has an uncanny accuracy with his passing, and a physical toughness -- two key ingredients needed for a quarterback," said second-year coach Mike Working, whose Eagles have surpassed last year's 2-8 record.

Sabelhaus' favorite target in the Eagles' run-and-shoot is Badham, who stands 5-10 and weighs 170. His 746 receiving yards was an area-best entering last week, and his seven touchdowns tied him for second with four others.

"Dennis is just a fierce competitor with a desire to excel," Working said. "When the pressure is on and the game is on the line, he wants the ball."

And when he isn't playing free safety, Stukes, 5-11, 165 poundsis a weapon at either slot back or wide receiver. He has caught 20 passes for 354 yards and rushed 31 times for 260 yards.

Of Stukes' four touchdowns, two have come on receptions, one rushing and the other on one of his five interceptions. "Dwayne just has a great deal of talent," Working said. "He's fast, quick, has great leaping ability and he's very strong. He has the ability to make the big play at any time."

Stukes, whose 92-yard interception return put the Eagles ahead, 8-7, against the Gaels, said: "We try to pick each other up in games."

"If Bobby throws an interception, it's like 'keep your head up,' " said Stukes, 15.

"If we make a mistake, we know that it can be erased."

"It surprises me that I'm doing so well and that Bobby is one of the best in the metro area," said Badham, who like Sabelhaus, is 16. "Speed is important, but I think it's also important to run sharp patterns. If I make the defender think I'm going long, then step on it hard and go left or right, then it's hard to stay with me."

If a team does keep the reins on Badham, Stukes can also cause trouble coming out of the backfield.

"Badham has benefited from Dwayne's reputation," and vice versa, Working said. "Football is a team game, and you win as a team."

But a youthful McDonogh squad, including just six starting seniors, lost tough challenges against City, Loyola and Poly -- the Nos. 1-, 2- and 3-ranked teams when the Eagles played them.

"We didn't like losing, but coach Working never let us get down about it," Badham said. "Instead, he just showed us our mistakes and told us how to improve."

Although they dropped their first three conference games by a combined 97-29, it was a "second-half let-up" that cost them against Loyola and Poly, Sabelhaus said.

The Eagles trailed 14-8 before losing, 28-8, to Poly. And the Loyola game was scoreless after the first half, in which the Eagles out-gained the Dons, 126-119.

"We practiced that aspect of our game," Sabelhaus said. "That was the difference in our last two games.

That, and the fact that our defense has come through. We've done it for them, and they've done it for us."

The Eagles have won their past two games in the fourth quarter, edging Calvert Hall on Rob Allen's 26-yard field goal with 58 seconds left, and nipping the Gaels on a 90-yard Sabelhaus-to-Badham touchdown strike with 5:36 left.

With games against Forest Park this week and No. 5 Gilman the next, Working said he hopes to finish strong.

"We said during the preseason that we'd break the year into two parts," Working said. "We'd spend the first half trying to get the players to understand our system, and the last half trying to make a run at the last five games. With three straight wins, I think we're on the right track."

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