Look­ing to put win­ning stamp on long ca­reer

Brant Hall takes side­line as Loy­ola’s coach for the last time

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Kather­ine Dunn

Pre­par­ing for the 97th an­nual meet­ing with archri­val Calvert Hall in the Thanks­giv­ing Day Tur­key Bowl, Loy­ola Blake­field foot­ball coach Brant Hall has been think­ing about a lot more than strat­egy this week. Not much of his fo­cus has been about this be­ing his fi­nal game as the Dons head coach.

“It hasn’t re­ally hit me that it’s go­ing to be the last one,” said Hall, who will be on the field for his 18th Tur­key Bowl as a Loy­ola player or coach.

“I don’t know how I’m go­ing to re­spond. I get very emo­tional when it comes to this game. I’m sure there’s go­ing to be a part — prob­a­bly be­fore the game starts and then when the game’s over — that it’s go­ing to sink in, ‘Hey, this is the last one in terms of me coach­ing and be­ing up close and per­sonal with the pro­gram.’ I’m sure it’ll hurt a lit­tle bit be­cause this has been such a big part of me for 20-some odd years.”

Although he will stay on as Loy­ola’s as­sis­tant ath­letic di­rec­tor, Hall, 36, will step down af­ter 14 years of coach­ing — the past five as head coach — to de­vote more time to his young fam­ily.

His sons are al­ready big Loy­ola fans at ages 8 and 5. They can’t wait to ride the team bus to the game at M&TBank Sta­dium today. When Hall told them he wasn’t go­ing M&T Bank Sta­dium Today, 10 a.m. TV: Ch. 2 Loy­ola Blake­field’s Brant Hall, cen­ter, is step­ping down as coach but will stay on as as­sis­tant ath­letic di­rec­tor. “This has been such a big part of me for 20-some odd years,” he said.

to coach af­ter this year, one of them asked whether that meant they couldn’t go to the game any­more. Hall re­as­sured them they would still go.

Af­ter all, Hall has been to ev­ery Tur­key Bowl since 1993. While play­ing at Le­high with a Satur­day play­off game ahead, his coach gave the team about a 24-hour Thanks­giv­ing break, so he drove home ev­ery year to see the game.

Next year, he’ll still be on the side­line as Loy­ola’s as­sis­tant ath­letic di­rec­tor, but this will be his fi­nal year calling the shots. More than any­thing, he wants to make it mem­o­rable for the play­ers.

“This group of se­niors, I want to see them win the game so they know what it feels like be­cause they haven’t been on the win­ning side against Calvert Hall yet,” Hall said.

“When­they were fresh­men, that’s the last time we won the game, but those guys weren’t a part of the team. So for the past two years, we’ve played them re­ally well; we just haven’t had the game go our way. I just want them to play well so they can have that ex­pe­ri­ence of win­ning against Calvert Hall.”

That was a feel­ing Hall knew well when he wore a Dons uni­form. He played dur­ing Loy­ola’s decade of dom­i­nance.

A three-year starter at quar­ter­back and The Bal­ti­more Sun’s Of­fen­sive Player of the Year as a se­nior in 1997, Hall helped his class win all four times as part of an 11-year Dons run be­tween 1989 and 1999 — the long­est win­ning streak in the his­tory of the se­ries.

His se­nior year, Loy­ola was No. 1 and the Cardinals were No. 2 in the fi­nal game played at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium. Hall threw for 222 yards and a touch­down and ran for an­other score as the Dons won the Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion A Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship with their 19-7 vic­tory.

No cham­pi­onship is on the line this time. The Dons (5-5) are 0-5 in the A Con­fer­ence and Calvert Hall (6-5) is 1-4, but that makes the game no less im­por­tant.

Their foot­ball ri­valry is the third old­est in the Bal­ti­more area, be­hind 128 years of City-Poly and 101 years of Gil­man-McDonogh, and no mat­ter whether Loy­ola or Calvert Hall wins in other sports, the Tur­key Bowl cham­pion al­ways has brag­ging rights for the next year.

Although Calvert Hall has won six of the past seven games, the past four have been de­cided by a touch­down or less. The Dons won, 21-20, in 2013, and the Cardinals won, 25-22, in 2014.

Last year, in the low­est-scor­ing game since 1939, Calvert Hall won, 6-0, on a 75-yard touch­down run on the se­cond play of the game. Loy­ola leads the se­ries 49-39-8. Think­ing about not be­ing an in­te­gral part of that again is a bit­ter­sweet feel­ing for a coach, but it’s a feel­ing he shares with his se­niors.

Dons se­nior Omar Whit­ing said it hasn’t quite hit him yet that it’s all end­ing.

“I think es­pe­cially to­ward the end of the game, when I pre­sume we’ll be win­ning,” he said with a smile, “that’s when it’s go­ing to set in that it’s the last game. … It’s go­ing to be bit­ter­sweet.”

Whit­ing, how­ever, does hope to be back in the ri­valry some­day as a coach, fol­low­ing in Hall’s foot­steps.

“The plan was ac­tu­ally to be coach­ing along­side him,” the run­ning back and corner­back said.

While Whit­ing said his class wants to set the tone for the un­der­class­men by bringing home a win, “the ma­jor­ity of the thought was def­i­nitely to de­liver Coach Hall his last win as head coach at Loy­ola.”

Whit­ing is al­ready com­pil­ing the play­book he hopes to use some­day.

Has he man­aged to get Hall to use any of those plays? “I’ve tried,” he said, shak­ing his head. “They’re all my plays,” Hall said. “A lot of them are,” Whit­ing con­ceded as they laughed.

As Hall pre­pares to step down, he might be pass­ing the coach­ing legacy down to Whit­ing in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.

“It would mean a lot to be a coach here,” Whit­ing said. “I look at the coaches and what they do, how much fun they have coach­ing and mak­ing up schemes, and I just started think about do­ing that.”

Putting a win­ning stamp on their re­spec­tive ca­reers would be the per­fect end­ing for the coach and the player. Both would be walk­ing a lot taller in school Mon­day and …

“Your food cer­tainly tastes bet­ter Thurs­day night,” Hall said with a smile.

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