Under pressure

QBs Andrew Robinson of Calvert Hall and Joe Lennon of Loyola face different challenges in tomorrow's annual Turkey Bowl game.


Loyola quarterback Joe Lennon considers Calvert Hall's Andrew Robinson the standard by which all area quarterbacks are measured.

"He's kind of been the best quarterback the last couple of years, especially in his passing. I think people look at him as the top guy right now," said Lennon, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior. "You kind of follow along to see how he's doing, stats-wise - strive to do as well as he has. In the end, hopefully, I can compare favorably to him."

Lennon will get that chance in tomorrow's 86th annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowl at M&T Bank Stadium when he leads the fourth-ranked Dons (7-3, 2-3) against the eighth-ranked Cardinals (5-4, 3-2) in a season-ending, Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference clash.

Lennon split time with All-Metro selection Brady Smith in last year's game, which the Dons won, 21-13, to improve their lead in the series to 44-33-8. Robinson, meanwhile, lost the contest for the second straight time as a starter, a factor that serves as a major source of motivation for him.

"In the last game of my high school career, I want to go out on top. Because if we don't, I realize that, years from now, people might be saying that even though this was a great team with a great quarterback, they never won the Turkey Bowl," said Robinson, who is 6-3 and 217 pounds. "Even though there's pressure to prove myself, I like being the go-to guy who is looked upon to perform. This game is as big to me, personally, as everyone makes it out to be."

Robinson and Lennon took different paths to football prominence.

While Robinson, who has passed for 2,368 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 517 yards and five scores this season, didn't start playing football until his freshman year, Lennon began in football at age 6, around the same time he started playing basketball and lacrosse.

Lennon arrived at Loyola as a highly touted midfielder in lacrosse - the sport he will play at the U.S. Naval Academy - and spent his first two years of high school football as an understudy to Smith.

"Brady had been there, it was his position, so there was no [rivalry,]" Lennon said. "I was a little nervous when Brady was injured during the middle of last season, but once I got a chance to start, that kind of went away."

That opportunity came in Lennon's MIAA A Conference debut - a 26-19 overtime loss to Gilman.

In that game, Lennon went 13-for-22 for 220 yards and an 80-yard touchdown pass, and twice tied the game with scoring runs, including a diving, 6-yard run to make it 19-19 with no time left in regulation. Lennon's grit and poise were on display as he engineered an earlier eight-play, 80-yard drive, completing passes of 17 and 23 yards and ending it with a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 13-13.

Perhaps Lennon's best game of this season was against Archbishop Curley, in which he went 4-for-7 for 100 yards and three touchdowns passing, and rushed for 81 yards and two more scores. Lennon has passed for 1,308 yards and 10 touchdowns, and rushed for 724 yards and eight more scores.

"I've definitely watched Joe. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he runs the draw real well," Robinson said. "He does a good job of getting past defenders, breaking tackles and stretching the ball out there. I admire that in a quarterback."

Robinson, who will play football at Syracuse on a full scholarship, was "always the biggest kid in class" growing up. Still, out of concern for injury, Robinson's parents allowed him to play soccer, basketball and baseball - but not football.

However, from the first pass Robinson threw as a member of the Cardinals' freshman squad, he demonstrated poise, vision and composure that belied his inexperience.

The following spring, Robinson endured what he considers "a blessing in disguise. I got cut from freshman baseball - which, ironically, is the sport I've been playing the most in my life," he said. "Coach [Jay] Robinson [no relation] was always talking about me playing spring football, so I figured I'll do that instead."

Robinson attended a summer football camp at Calvert Hall and returned in the fall a more confident sophomore. His gradual improvement earned him a permanent starting role in the season's third game.

"My best game was against Mount St. Joseph, when I completed like 85 percent of my passes for like 280 yards and three touchdowns. That was game seven or eight," Robinson said. "After the season, at our banquet, Coach Robinson told my parents, `If Andrew keeps progressing at this rate, he has a real shot at playing Division I football in college.' "

Robinson said he attended two quarterback camps in addition to another camp at the University of Maryland, where he "pretty much learned how to watch film, read defenses - all of the intricacies of the game that translated into my on-field performances," he said.

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