Just six days after suffering one of the most emotional defeats of his high school career, Calvert Hall quarterback Thomas Stuart on Thursday returned to the place it all went down -- with one more chance to make it right.
Playing on the same Towson University field where his No. 2 Cardinals last week fell to Gilman in double overtime of the inaugural Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title game, Stuart threw for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns, helping No. 2 Calvert Hall score the game's final 13 points in a 34-17 win over Loyola in the 92nd Turkey Bowl before an announced 10,080.
"I think if we didn't have the opportunity to do this, some of us would've held [that loss] with us for a long time," Stuart said.
Instead, those memories will include three straight victories for Calvert Hall (10-2) against its arch-rival, though Loyola (4-6) still leads the all-time series 48-36-8.
The game served as an emotional and physical challenge for the Cardinals, who took part in a pair of hard-fought playoff games while Loyola had three weeks to rest and focus on Thanksgiving.
"They're 16 and 17 years old, so physically I think they're able to bounce back. The issue becomes emotionally," Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said. "After an emotional double-overtime game and a loss -- and we took a few injuries and you only have a few days to make some adjustments -- those become the challenges. But mentally I thought they did a great job of focusing over the last couple of days and coming out and executing today."
Stuart finished 19 of 28 after hitting each of his first seven passes, while receiver Trevor Williams had 10 catches for 123 yards. Just 76 of the Cardinals' 328 yards of total offense came on the ground.
One drive after Loyola got back to within four points on Ryan Black's 2-yard plunge over the left side, Stuart answered by leading an 80-yard drive, capped by his 34-yard touchdown pass to Williams, who beat a pair of defenders down the right sideline.
"I kind of gave [Williams] the look like, 'Go up top. I've got him,'" Stuart said. "[Loyola's] coach on the play said 'QB draw,' and I thought they were all going to come, so I took a step forward. I think that brought the safety up a little bit and it gave me time to throw to Trevor."
Said Williams: "They had a lot of momentum so we just wanted to take their heart from them and go deep."
The Cardinals then finished off Loyola midway through the fourth quarter, when linebacker Garrett Epple stepped in front of Dons quarterback Jake Clise's out pass near midfield and returned in 42 yards to the 2. When running back Garrett Keene scored from the 2 two plays later, Calvert Hall had all but sealed up the win.
Clise led the Dons with 134 yards rushing and a touchdown, primarily on option runs. But after running wild in the first half -- including a 60-yard touchdown in which he faked to Black and then took off around the left side -- Clise managed just 38 yards the rest of the way.
"We made an adjustment at half," Cardinals linebacker C.J. Williams said. "The two inside linebackers kind of keyed the quarterback, instead of going for the running back. That's how we were able to manage it and control it in the second half."
Down 3-0, Calvert Hall got its offense rolling on its opening possession, with Stuart completing all five passes on the drive to set up a 2-yard plunge by fullback Cole Atkinson.
After forcing a punt, the Cardinals then picked up where they left off. Stuart hit receiver Delando Johnson for a 16-yard gain to open the drive, and nine plays later rolled left, drew defenders and floated a 13-yard touchdown pass over their heads to wide-open Brandon Neverdon to extend the lead to 14-3.
Up just 14-10 after Clise's run, Calvert Hall was quick to re-establish control, as Stuart found Trevor Williams on consecutive passes of 24 and 20 yards to move the ball into Dons' territory. Aided by a pass interference call in the end zone, the Cardinals then extended their lead to 21-10 when Stuart scored from the 1.
"In the first half we've got to make some stops," Loyola coach Brian Abbott said. "We had opportunities to get [our] offense back on the field. [Our] offense was doing a nice job in the first half, but we couldn't get [Calvert Hall] off the field."
Calvert Hall 7 14 0 13 -- 34
Loyola 3 7 7 0 -- 17
L-Dubyoski 23 FG
CH-Atkinson 2 run (Strachan kick)
CH-Neverdon 13 pass from Stuart (Strachan kick)
L-Clise 60 run (Dubyoski kick)
CH-C.J. Williams 1 run (Strachan kick)
L-Black 2 run (Dubyoski kick)
CH-T. Williams 34 pass from Stuart (Strachan kick)
CH-Keene 2 run (pass failed)