Special teams power Eagles
QB Turner’s heroics not enough as two big plays on punts lift McDonogh
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.