Score, play defense, protect the lead.
It's a simple strategy that often works in soccer and one that fourth-ranked McDonogh employed in Irvington yesterday, beating No. 10 Mount St. Joseph, 1-0, in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game.
After taking the game's initial six shots, McDonogh (4-1-1 overall, 3-0 league) scored the only goal it would need in the 25th minute.
John Ports connected with the rebound of Matt Beckman's shot, which initially was blocked by Gaels goalkeeper Hugh McCelland, who finished with seven saves.
"The ball came in from 30 yards out, and it was a rocket," Ports said. "The keeper made a great save, but he didn't pick it up. It was a gift. I just drove it in."
Beckman, who had three of his chances stopped by McCelland in the first half, was then switched to the backfield.
There, Beckman repeatedly helped to turn back the Gaels (2-3, all in the league), alongside Tyler Stoviak, Drew Singleton, Jimmy Dodson, Justin Lichtfuss and Cam Watkins.
"It was a team effort - just step [to the ball] and pressure," said Stoviak, a left-footer and one of only three senior starters for McDonogh. "All they could do was kick the ball from way out, and we'd just counterattack every time."
Watkins drew the assignment of marking Gaels playmaker Steve Vogt, who, nevertheless, contributed to his team's 11-4 advantage in second-half shots.
"As soon as we play the ball forward, they'd kick it out," Vogt said. "We just didn't have it today."
Mark Dennis, Joe Mellott, Eric Mullins and Douglass Widlake all took turns trying to score. But each, in succession, was thwarted by Eagles goalkeeper Alex Horwath, who stopped Mount St. Joseph's first seven shots of the second half.
"We moved Mattie back, just packed it in and played a zone," said Horwath, who made all of his eight saves in the second half. "Their strikes were good but not really too dangerous. As long as we could make them shoot it from the 18 or beyond, we felt pretty safe."