When push came to shove, neither Calvert Hall nor McDonogh were willing to give an inch in a showdown for the second seed in the upcoming inaugural Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs.
In the end, though, the Cardinals (7-1, 3-1 conference) managed to prevail in a taut 48-42 triple-overtime thriller on the Eagles' home field in Owings Mills on Sunday afternoon.
Senior quarterback Thomas Stuart connected with classmate CJ Williams for the go-ahead score in the third extra possession, then came up short in an attempt to convert the conversion points when his pass was batted down.
But Williams made sure his touchdown stood when he intercepted McDonogh senior quarterback Joel Jorgensen's pass in the end zone to secure the victory.
"I read the quarterback's eyes," said CJ Williams, who also plays linebacker for the Cardinals. "And I dropped back to help when the receiver came over the middle."
McDonogh (6-3, 3-2) came ready to play with a game-plan that had the Calvert Hall's defense befuddled for almost the entire first half.
Senior Tre Henley's 5-yard run and a pair of Jorgensen scoring strikes to senior Miles Crump (39 yards) and junior Taysean Scott (51 yards) gave McDonogh a 20-0 advantage with 1:49 left in the half.
"I think they were running trips, and then one guy would run a post (pattern) and he'd be wide open," said Cardinal defensive lineman Emmanuel Holder. "I told our DBs, 'I need help.'"
Calvert Hall recorded its initial touchdown on the first of seven scoring strikes — four in regulation and three in OT — by Stuart, who found senior Trevor Williams in the corner of the end zone from the Eagle 12 with 53 seconds left in the second quarter.
Stuart followed that up with TD passes to CJ Williams (8 yards), senior Brandon Neverdon (20 yards) and Trevor Williams (46 yards) to take a 28-20 lead in the third quarter.
Jorgensen then drew his team even in the fourth quarter on a 54-yard touchdown pass to junior Jabari Weems and a run for the two-point conversion.
In the final frantic seconds of regulation, Calvert Hall blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt after there was confusion among the officials where the ball should have been spotted.
In the first OT, Calvert Hall missed an extra-point try that would have given the Cardinals the win after senior linebacker Garrett Epple denied an Eagle runner on the 1-yard line on McDonogh's conversion attempt.
In the second OT, Jorgensen leaped over several defenders from the 3-yard line to to finish an 11-yard touchdown run as the Eagles went ahead, 42-34.
However, Stuart found CJ Williams for a touchdown and then connected with junior Stephen Kelly for the tying points.
"We played well enough to win, but we just have to execute better on crucial plays," McDonogh coach Dom Damico said. Not having our kicker (Evan Glaser, left the game with a concussion) killed us."