Late plays lift Loyola to share of `A' title

Utz score, interception by Strickland turn back Mount St. Joseph, 24-17

Football

High Schools

November 02, 2003|By Mike Frainie | Mike Frainie,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With 3:53 left in the fourth quarter and the score tied, Loyola's Dons needed to reach a little deeper and try a little harder.

Mission accomplished. The No. 8 Dons (6-3, 3-0) got a late score by Rob Utz and an even later interception by Larry Strickland yesterday to defeat host Mount St. Joseph, 24-17, in a key Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game.

The victory gives the Dons at least a share of the A Conference title as they head into their grudge match with Calvert Hall (2-1 league) on Thanksgiving at M&T Bank Stadium.

Workhorse back Chris Gillyard rushed for 174 yards on 36 carries to pace the Dons.

"It feels great," Strickland, who had two interceptions, said of winning a share of the title. "We played a little shaky for a while, but we played together as a team and it worked out in the end."

Trailing 17-10, the Gaels (4-5, 1-3) rallied early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Pat Buchler scrambled and found a wide-open Matt Goldberg in the front of the end zone from 25 yards. The extra point tied the score at 17 with 11:09 left.

After the teams traded unsuccessful possessions, Loyola got the ball back at the Mount St. Joseph 45 with 7:28 left. The Dons gave the ball to Gillyard on five consecutive plays to reach the 20. Three plays later, Loyola quarterback Brady Smith found fullback Utz open at the 5, and he scored untouched to give the Dons a 24-17 lead with 3:48 left.

"We'd seen on the film that we could get the fullback open in the flat, and we were saving that play," said Smith.

Much to their credit, the Gaels didn't quit. It appeared the game was over on the first play of the next series when Gillyard intercepted Buchler, but the senior was stripped of the ball at the Gaels' 39 and Mount St. Joseph recovered.

Buchler made the most of his second chance. He spotted receiver Danny Reed open at the Loyola 32. Reed caught the pass and juked defenders for a 46-yard gain to the Loyola 15. After a 5-yard run by Sir Bryant Randall, Buchler scrambled to his right and threw into a crowd near the goal line. The ball was tipped by Loyola lineman Dan Protzman, and then fell into Strickland's arms in the end zone with 1:39 left.

The Dons ran out the clock.

"We didn't capitalize on the turnovers we had early," said Loyola coach Brian Abbott. "We got three turnovers and only turned them into 10 points."

Mount St. Joseph coach Mike Working was happy with his team's effort.

"That was just a good, hard-fought high school football game," said Working. "We think we can score anytime we have the ball. ... We just have to be a little more patient."

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