Calvert Hall's Da'Quan Davis leaps into the arms… (Gene Sweeney Jr, Baltimore…)
After scoring 88 points between them in a regular-season battle less than two weeks ago, Calvert Hall and McDonogh locked in a defensive struggle in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal at Paul Angelo Russo Stadium in Towson on Friday night.
And just as they did in a 48-42 triple-overtime victory on the Eagles' home field on Oct. 30, the Cardinals (9-1) came from way behind to claim a pulsating triumph.
With the 16-15 win, the Cardinals advance to the inaugural conference championship game at Towson University next Friday at 8 p.m. to meet Gilman, the team that handed them their only defeat, 28-21, in early October.
One of the heroes of the earlier McDonogh game, senior running back CJ Williams, plagued the Eagles once again with his penchant for big plays in clutch situations.
Trailing 15-3, after a 2-yard plunge by McDonogh senior running back Colby Everett with 8:52 remaining, Calvert Hall began its comeback when Williams hauled in a swing pass from senior quarterback Thomas Stuart at the 8-yard line and somehow managed to plow in the end zone with two Eagles defenders attempting to bring him down with 7:23 to go.
On its next series, Calvert Hall used the same duo to strike deep into McDonogh territory when Williams grabbed Stuart's pass over the middle and churned for 15 precious extra yards.
"I knew the safety was right behind me," Williams said. "I shielded him from the ball and then put my shoulder down and kept running."
The 40-yard pass play put the ball at the McDonogh 22.
Two plays later, Stuart found senior wideout Trevor Williams with the tying score, which was broken by junior Austen Strachen's point-after with 1:45 remaining.
"When we were way behind, CJ came up to me on the sideline and said, 'Coach, we've got this. Trust me.' The kid just has a tremendous will to win," Cardinals coach Donald Davis said.
After falling behind, McDonogh was not about to give up. Behind gutsy senior quarterback Joel Jorgensen, the Eagles drove to the Calvert Hall 15-yard line and attempted a 32-yard field goal that was blocked as time expired.
McDonogh coaches felt that a penalty should have been called on the play for roughing the kicker.
"The referees in our league aren't up to the level of competition," McDonogh coach Dom Damico said. "Our kicker was basically annihilated. There should have been a 15-yard penalty. I'm fed up with the officiating."
The Eagles led 8-0 at halftime after Jorgensen scrambled to his right and found junior Taysean Scott in the corner of the end zone with 1:58 remaining in the second quarter.
Jorgensen's two-point conversion pass to Tre Henley finished the 17-yard play.
Calvert Hall simply could not move the ball against the Eagles, even after moving to the McDonogh 6-yard line near the end of the third quarter.
Instead, the Cardinals settled for a 28-yard field goal by junior Austen Strachen with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter.
While Calvert Hall struggled to run the ball against McDonogh's defensive line, led by University of Maryland-bound end Roman Braglio, the Eagles secondary did a terrific job of covering Cardinals receivers Trevor Williams, CJ Williams and Logan Kurek.