For nearly 80 minutes, No. 6 Loyola was able to dictate play against No. 1 McDonogh, caressing passes through the midfield and forcing Eagles goalie Matt Sanchez off his line several times to makes saves.
Still, the Dons could not solve McDonogh's stout defense, which entered the game having allowed just two goals all season.
But with just 1:37 remaining, Loyola finally got its break, as sophomore Riley Collins took a pass from Jeremy DeGraffenreidt just inside the penalty area and fired a shot into the top of the goal for 1-0 victory before a raucous overflow crowd that stormed the field in celebration after the game.
With the victory, Loyola takes over first place in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference with 19 points, just ahead of McDonogh (17 points) and third-place Gilman (15 points) and Curley (15 points). It was the Eagles' first loss in 14 games, dating back to a 4-0 setback at Loyola last season.
"We thought we had the majority of the play and our intensity was great," Collins said. "It was the first game all year that we played with that type of intensity for a full 80 minutes. We just stayed positive and knew we were going to get the goal."
Loyola (9-2-1 overall, 6-1-1 MIAA) was effective pushing forward throughout the game. However, McDonogh (8-1-2, 5-1-2) was able get enough players back defensively to thwart the Dons' attack. Loyola's Michael DeGraffenreidt set up the attack from his defensive position by sending long passes forward and pushing forward to support his strikers.
McDonogh nearly took the lead in the final minutes of the first half when Connor Smith deftly crossed the ball to Brett Ebel, whose header was caught by Dons goalie Chris Girken (seven saves).
"We dictated play, but it was still a 1-0 game," Loyola coach Lee Tschantret said. "They are very dangerous on the counter-attack. That was probably our most consistent 80 minutes. This is good because you want to peak heading into the second half of the season, going into the playoffs."
The Dons — who were wearing pink jerseys in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month — continued to effectively attack in the second half. A shot by Jeremy DeGraffenreidt was cleared off the line with five minutes remaining by a couple of Eagles defenders. McDonogh was hampered because its top playmaker, George Campbell, only played about 15 minutes because of a sore knee.
"He's arguably the best player in the league," McDonogh coach Steve Nichols said of Campbell. "Michael DeGraffenreidt is the best athlete in the league. But when [Campbell] is not there, we're clearly a different team. We lack energy. That said, we hung in there for almost 80 minutes."
No. 6 Loyola 1, No. 1 McDonogh 0
Goals: L-Collins. Assist: L- J. DeGraffenreidt. Saves: M-Sanchez 8; L-Girken 7. Half: 0-0