After falling behind Loyola late in the first half, St Frances made a couple of key adjustments to pull away from the Dons for a 41-24 victory in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football game at Hargaden Field in Towson on Saturday afternoon.
Loyola's Kyle Saunders had success on the ground early before the Panthers figured out a way to keep him in check. The senior running back carried the ball 11 times for 64 yards in the first half before being limited to 16 yards on seven attempts after the intermission.
"They were gouging us in the B gap," St. Frances coach Messay Hailemariam said. "We were out of position and didn't have respect for our technique. In the second half, we made some adjustments, and did a much better job."
If the Panther defense struggled at times, the offense was mostly in high gear behind senior quarterback Quantaye Battle, who torched the Loyola secondary for three touchdown passes and scored another on a short run.
Meanwhile, he added a big play on defense by sacking starting quarterback Ben Evans on fourth down to stymie the Dons' first possession of the second half. Senior linebacker Aaron Mackell added three sacks and junior cornerback Justice Dixon picked off a pair passes for the Panthers.
"Our coaches told us before the season (after making a leap from the C to A Conference) that we could either fold or play," Battle said. "And we decided to play."
Hailemariam said the the Panthers (4-5, 2-2 conference) are becoming more acclimated to the competition.
"The kids are getting better, and so am I," he said. "I made some coaching mistakes — we could have been a little bit better prepared for some games. But I'm pleased how we've shown some resilience."
That attribute became apparant after the Dons (2-5, 0-3) wrestled the lead from St. Frances twice in the first half.
Evans' 1-yard run gave Loyola a 10-7 advantage with 1:03 left in the first quarter before senior wideout Mike Meurer outleaped two defenders for a 17-14 lead at the 2:40 mark of the second period.
The Panthers responded quickly when senior running back Mark Velasquez sprinted 39 yards for a score 16 seconds later and Battle found junior wideout Devin Phelps open in the end zone on a 20-yard pass with :56 remaining before halftime to go ahead, 27-17.
Velazquez finished a six-play, 61-yard drive on a 7-yard burst early in the fourth quarter to double the advantage.
Loyola made a game of it after reserve junior quarterback came out throwing — mostly to Meurer — and completed a 5-yard strike to senior wideout Trevor Janoskie for the Dons' final touchdown.
Battle's 3-yard run, set up by a 38-yard Velazquez sweep, ended the scoring.
SF 7 20 0 14 41
L 10 7 0 7 24
SF-Holland 8 pass from Battle (Sommerville kick)
Loy-Rowley 28 FG
Loy-Evans 1 run (Rowley kick)
SF-Phelps 26 pass from Battle (Sommerville kick)