Calvert Hall discovered yesterday that three straight victories at the right time can make or break a season, and that senior leadership is priceless.
With the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title on the line at UMBC, seniors Patrick Healey and Ryan Callinan combined for the biggest goal of their careers with 6:27 to play -- a score that defeated McDonogh, 2-1, and delivered a second straight title to the Cardinals.
Neither Calvert Hall nor McDonogh was expected to reach the final. But in Friday's semifinals, riding two goals from Healey, the Cardinals upset undefeated and No. 1 Archbishop Curley, 4-0, and No. 8 McDonogh handed No. 4 Loyola only its second loss, 2-1. The Cardinals had beaten Archbishop Spalding, 2-1, in the quarterfinals.
That set the stage for yesterday's heroics by Healey and Callinan.
Callinan set up the game-winner by drawing a flagrant foul about 30 yards out that drew a yellow card against the McDonogh defender. Callinan then lofted the direct kick toward the right post, and Healey headed it back to the far post and in.
"I'm always looking for Pat," Callinan said.
Said Healey: "It's all about timing up there. We've been playing club ball together since we were 9, so we've been doing that for years. Winning this year is a better feeling than last year because everyone had counted us out. This is unbelievable."
Unlike last year, when the Cardinals (12-6-2) went undefeated and were ranked No. 1, this season they entered the playoffs with a 9-6-2 record and had fallen from the polls after starting the season at No. 4.
"I talked all season about handling adversity," Calvert Hall coach Andy Moore said. "When we were down 1-0 at halftime we could have folded, but we showed tremendous character to fight back."
It was the first time all season that Calvert Hall trailed at halftime and won.
"I expected those two to carry the load this season, so it is fitting that they combined on the winning goal," Moore said. "Pat has been a tremendous leader and everything I expect from a senior captain."
McDonogh (15-7-2) struck first on a volley by Eric Shadoff that struck the crossbar, bounced off the back of leaping Calvert Hall goalkeeper Kyle Wittman and went in at the 13th minute.
Calvert Hall had only one shot in the first half, and was outshot 10-7 overall. But with McDonogh's key starting central defender, Justin Lichtfuss, unable to play after sustaining an injury against Loyola, and key center midfielder Mike Marchiano hobbled by a first-half injury, the Cardinals began taking it to the Eagles midway through the second half.
About two minutes later, Callinan struck a corner kick that Healey headed back to Lucas Pardew, who chested it in at the far post to tie it. Pardew's older brother, Ben, now at Towson University, was the hero of last year's championship game.
"It felt so good getting my team into a tie," said Pardew.
"The two seniors won the game for them," said McDonogh coach Steve Nichols. "They're just great players."