Calvert Hall cruises to 40-21 win over Loy­ola

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Rich Scherr

For wide re­ceiver Chris Cooper, it was an in­stant that seemed to last for­ever. Run­ning down the side­line with 5 yards on his near­est de­fender just mo­ments into Thurs­day’s 97th Turkey Bowl, the speedy Calvert Hall ju­nior knew he had a touch­down — if only the ball ever came down.

“That ball was in the air for like years,” Cooper said.

When the high-arch­ing pass from quar­ter­back Ben Brooks fi­nally de­scended to Earth, Cooper had a 57-yard touch­down catch on just Calvert Hall’s sec­ond play from scrim­mage. The score set the tone for the Car­di­nals, who opened the game with19 straight points be­fore hold­ing off a sec­ond­half rally by archri­val Loy­ola Blake­field in a 40-21 win be­fore an an­nounced 8,340 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Calvert Hall (7-5, 2-4 Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion A Con­fer­ence) has won seven of the past eight games in the se­ries — the third long­est in the Bal­ti­more area, be­hind City-Poly and Gil­man-McDonogh. Loy­ola (5-6, 0-6) still leads the all-time se­ries 49-40-8.

To Car­di­nals coach Don­ald Davis, the open­ing min­utes played a huge emo­tional and phys­i­cal role in a game Calvert Hall went on to lead 33-7.

“I think it was the tempo. We came out and we were fast-paced,” Davis said. “Our of­fen­sive line es­tab­lished the line of scrim- mage, our backs ran hard, and our quar­ter­back con­trolled the tempo. He con­trolled the of­fense, whether it was run or pass, check­ing out of cer­tain plays. He just did a re­ally good job of ex­e­cut­ing our plan.”

Brooks, a se­nior, threw for 204 yards and a touch­down, and also ran for two scores, as the Car­di­nals amassed 409 yards of to­tal of­fense. Af­ter beat­ing Loy­ola, 6-0, a year ago, Brooks said it was im­por­tant to strike quickly.

“It was huge,” Brooks said. “We came out in a run play, so I wanted to check into some­thing that re­ally got the crowd and all the guys into it. I went to an out­side go route. I just led it out there for him, and he made a great play on the ball.” Calvert Hall’s Chris Cooper beats Loy­ola’s Ty Trinh for a 57-yard touch­down catch on the Car­di­nals’ sec­ond play from scrim­mage.

Cooper said he sus­pected the play would work when he saw Dons top de­fen­sive back Kenny Lewis matched up with team­mate Xavier Gravette on the other side.

“We re­al­ized we matched up well, and we felt like we should go at” the other de­fen­sive back, Cooper said. “Ben took a chance on me, trusted me and al­lowed me to go get it.”

It was eerily sim­i­lar to a year ago, when the Car­di­nals scored the only touch­down on a 75-yard run on the game’s sec­ond play.

Un­like that game, how­ever, Calvert Hall con­tin­ued to add points.

Af­ter Loy­ola’s best drive of the game to that point ended with a dropped screen pass on fourth down at the Calvert Hall 20, the Car­di­nals had an 11-play drive of their own, al­ter­nat­ing car­ries be­tween BJ Wat­son and Tim Smith. Wat­son broke off a 20-yard run through the left side, set­ting up a 1-yard touch­down plunge by Brooks.

A 4-yard Loy­ola punt gave the Car­di­nals pos­ses­sion at the Dons 35. Smith capped a nine-play drive with a 1-yard run over the left side, ex­tend­ing the lead to 19-0 and threat­en­ing to turn the game into a blowout.

“You make mis­takes and you’re not able to get over those mis­takes, or you don’t take ad­van­tage of mis­takes the other team makes, then you’re not go­ing to win the game,” Dons coach Brant Hall said. “I think that’s what happened to­day.”

Af­ter hold­ing the Car­di­nals to a three-and-out on their next pos­ses­sion, how­ever, Loy­ola be­gan to gain a bit of mo­men­tum when fresh­man Ty Trinh re­turned a punt 55 yards to the 21. Three plays later, Dons quar­ter­back Will Ko­ras found Lewis for a 6-yard score, cut­ting the lead to 19-7 just 3:02 be­fore half­time.

Ko­ras fin­ished with 188 pass­ing yards, two pass­ing touch­downs and one rush­ing score. Calvert Hall play­ers cel­e­brate with the game tro­phy af­ter de­feat­ing Loy­ola.

But just as quickly as Loy­ola be­gan to turn the tide, Calvert Hall turned it right back to start the sec­ond half.

Af­ter open­ing the third quar­ter with Wat­son play­ing quar­ter­back in the Wild­cat for­ma­tion, on the sec­ond play of the half Wat­son handed off to Cooper, who ran 43 yards for a touch­down.

Just two plays later, the Car­di­nals re­cov­ered a fum­ble near mid­field, help­ing set the stage for Brooks’ sec­ond 1-yard touch­down run of the game to ex­tend the lead to 33-7.

But the Dons didn’t quit, scor­ing on Ko­ras’ 5-yard keeper and re­cov­er­ing the en­su­ing on­side kick when Jack Glock fell on the ball near the side­line. Though they failed to cap­i­tal­ize, the Dons re­gained pos­ses­sion on an in­ter­cep­tion by Lewis at the Calvert Hall 19, set­ting up Ko­ras’ 6-yard scor­ing pass to John Fe­ola to make it a 12-point game.

Loy­ola again at­tempted an on­side kick, but Jor­dan McLaugh­lin re­cov­ered, all but end­ing the come­back.

“When we throw the foot­ball to them, and then we lose an on­side kick, it felt like we were on the field for a quar­ter and a half [straight] on de­fense,” Davis said. “But our kids are not just phys­i­cally tough but men­tally tough.”

For Hall, the loss was espe­cially emo­tional, com­ing in his fi­nal game as coach. Hall, who will stay on as Loy­ola’s as­sis­tant ath­letic di­rec­tor, had spent nine years as an as­sis­tant be­fore serv­ing as head coach for the past five sea­sons.

“It still hasn’t hit me. It will sink in at some point,” said Hall, The Bal­ti­more Sun’s Of­fen­sive Player of the Year as a se­nior at Loy­ola in 1997. “I’m dis­ap­pointed. I would’ve liked to have gone out with a win, but I re­ally wanted to get this for our se­niors.”

Davis, who played against Hall in high school, called the mo­ment “bit­ter­sweet.”

“He’s a great foot­ball coach and a great of­fen­sive mind,” Davis said. “He’s hard as hell to coach against, but at the same time I’m just go­ing to miss be­ing able to battle with him.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN PHO­TOS

Calvert Hall’s Chris Cooper catches a pass in the midst of Loy­ola’s Wade Tucker, Kenny Lewis and Michael Pruzin­sky in the third quar­ter. The Car­di­nals have won seven of the past eight games in the se­ries.

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