Potomac holds off McDonogh rally, 25-14

September 11, 1994|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to The Sun

OXON HILL -- McDonogh quarterback Bobby Sabelhaus said he was confident that the top-ranked Eagles could get their highly touted passing game into high gear yesterday against host Potomac of Prince George's County.

But with one ill-advised passing play, that offense and McDonogh's dream of a second straight perfect season both came to a crashing halt.

After marching most of the way back from a 19-point first-half deficit and being poised to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, McDonogh threw away its chances for victory when receiver Jason Taylor's option pass was picked off and returned for a touchdown, giving the Braves a 25-14 lead that held up as the final score.

In a game of giant momentum swings, the play was enough to seal McDonogh's fate.

"It killed us," said Eagles first-year coach Dominic Damico, whose team fell to 0-1. "I thought we could've won the game if not for that play."

The play in question started with a lateral pass from Sabelhaus to Taylor.

Under tremendous defensive pressure, and with a defender draped around his legs, Taylor -- who had played the role of hero earlier when he returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown -- threw a wounded-duck pass that defensive back Lorenzo Harrison picked off and returned 32 yards unmolested for the score.

The Braves (1-0), who used five different ball carriers, gained 266 yards on the ground.

Running back Mansoor Salahuddin led the way, rushing nine times for 86 yards behind an intimidating offensive line.

Potomac used sustained drives to keep McDonogh's offense off the field, then made the big plays on defense, forcing four turnovers.

"You can't turn the ball over that many times and expect to win," said Damico, whose team, ranked No. 3 in the state by the Associated Press, lost for the first time in 15 games dating to 1992. "We just had a lot of nervous players today."

Still, early in the second half it seemed as though McDonogh was on its way to a dramatic comeback victory.

After throwing for just 61 yards in the first half, Sabelhaus began to get on track in the third quarter. On the team's first drive of the half, he completed strikes of 28 and 31 yards to Dwayne Stukes to set up a quarterback sneak for the touchdown.

Then, after Taylor's interception return made it 19-14 with 6:22 left in the third, McDonogh got the ball back when Potomac couldn't handle the ensuing kickoff.

Sabelhaus (10-for-18, 140 yards) then hit Dennis Badham with a 5-yard pass, but Badham fumbled it back to the Braves.

Potomac dominated play on both sides of the ball in the first half.

The Braves powered their way to success on offense, using the running game to score on their first three possessions.

After recovering a fumble by McDonogh's Jason Taylor at the end of the Eagles' first play from scrimmage, Potomac marched 46 yards in six plays to score on Salahuddin's 4-yard burst up the middle, giving his team a 6-0 lead just 4:24 into the game.

McDonogh's next possession was also brief, lasting just three plays before Sabelhaus' pass intended for Alex Miller was picked off by the Braves' Sean Brown at the Potomac 21.

Eight plays later, Jereese Williams took a reverse and raced 52 yards around the right side to increase the lead to 12-0 near the end of the quarter.

After the Eagles again faltered on offense, going three plays and out, Potomac made it 19-0 by driving 52 yards on seven plays, capped by Salahuddin's 24-yard sprint up the middle with 8:29 left in the half.

D8 Potomac outgained McDonogh 207-76 in the first half.

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