Spe­cial teams power Ea­gles

QB Turner’s hero­ics not enough as two big plays on punts lift McDonogh

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY FOOTBALL - By Rich Scherr

Fresh off last week’s nar­row win over Wash­ing­ton-area power Gon­zaga in its sea­son opener, top-ranked McDonogh trav­eled the short dis­tance to Reis­ter­stown on Fri­day to face a young Franklin team that grad­u­ated all of its of­fen­sive starters.

Many fig­ured the game wouldn’t be close.

But the Ea­gles got a bat­tle from the 2015 re­gional fi­nal­ists — at least for a while.

Af­ter a back-and-forth first half, the Ea­gles gained con­trol with a pair of big spe­cial teams plays late in the half to gain con­trol, then new quar­ter­back DeJuan El­lis hit BJ Fararre in stride down the side­line for a 78-yard touch­down in the third to send them to a 34-14 win over the host No. 12 In­di­ans.

“A win’s a win,” McDonogh coach Dom Dam­ico said. “Wewere com­ing off a re­ally big win against Gon­zaga, short week, and we re­ally didn’t have much film on them. But you’ve got to give it to Franklin. They’re a phys­i­cal, tough foot­ball team.”

El­lis, a trans­fer from Bishop O’Con­nell (Va.), also ran for first-half touch­downs of 15 yards and 1 yard, help­ing McDonogh, which is seek­ing its third Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion A Con­fer­ence ti­tle in four years, break a 7-7 tie with 27 straight points.

But the big­gest game-chang­ers hap­pened on spe­cial teams.

First, on a fourth down from Franklin’s 21, line­backer An­drew Frailer broke through to block Luis Bel­montes’ punt, giv­ing the Ea­gles the ball at the 5. Mo­ments later, El­lis dived over the left side from the 1 to put McDonogh back on top.

Then, on Franklin’s very next pos­ses­sion, the Ea­gles (2-0) tipped Bel­montes’ punt. It fell short, into the hands of re­ceiver Ni­jay Nel­son, who took it back 60 yards down the left side­line to ex­tend the lead to 21-7 near half­time.

“That was a big mo­men­tum changer right there,” El­lis said. “It helped us step up and [en­er­gized] us, and we did what we did in the sec­ond half.”

Franklin quar­ter­back Joshua Turner kept the In­di­ans in the game with his feet, time and again us­ing the play fake to hold off de­fend­ers, then speed­ing past them for big gains.

In the end, how­ever, McDonogh proved too tal­ented on both sides of the ball.

The Ea­gles started quickly, tak­ing a 7-0 lead on just its sec­ond drive of the game when El­lis faked to Mylique McGriff, who walked into the end zone from 15 yards out.

The In­di­ans (0-1) quickly re­sponded with a nine-play drive of their own, ex­tend­ing it when, on a third-and 29, Turner threw a long pass to An­dreus Price for a gain of 31. On the next play, how­ever, the Ea­gles’ Dar­ius Pick­ett in­ter­cepted Turner’s pass to the end zone.

Af­ter stop­ping the Ea­gles on a three­and-out, Franklin picked up where it left off. Turner scram­bled for runs 26 and 15 yards be­fore han­dling a wob­bly snap at the 10 and sprint­ing right into the front cor­ner of the end zone, ty­ing the game at 7.

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