With no one standing between him and the end zone, Calvert Hall running back TJ Massey had just one thought on the second play of Thursday's 96th annual Turkey Bowl.
Don't get caught.
The speedy senior didn't, and neither did the Cardinals, taking the early lead and using bend-but-don't-break defense to hold off archrival Loyola Blakefield for a 6-0 win before an announced 9,092 at M&T Bank Stadium.
"The O-line, they set their blocks perfectly. For me, it was just running through the hole," said Massey, who acknowledged he was concerned about getting run down shy of the goal line. "I was looking back a little bit, but once I broke open I knew I had to score."
It marked the lowest-scoring game in the series since 1939. Only six previous scoreless ties — all prior to 1934 — featured fewer points.
Calvert Hall (5-6 overall, 2-4 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference) now has won two straight and six of the past seven in the series, which Loyola still leads 49-39-8. The storied rivalry is the third-oldest in the Baltimore area behind City-Poly and Gilman-McDonogh.
Despite giving up 301 yards of total offense, the Cardinals recorded their first shutout over the Dons since 1988.
"Our defense had one of its best games all season," Massey said. "Everybody was flying to the ball. They played one of the most pivotal roles in us winning this game."
The Dons (5-6, 1-5) can attest to that.
Each time they made a charge in the second half, Calvert Hall's defense — led by defensive end Jimmy Crowley (four sacks) and shutdown corner Djimon Harried — came up with a big play.
The Dons converted three fourth downs in the second half to put together drives of 19 and nine plays. Both possessions ended badly, with a missed field goal and a turnover on downs.
"There were just a lot of missed opportunities," Loyola coach Brant Hall said. "We moved the ball, but you get down there and you've got to finish. Today, we just weren't able to finish."
Calvert Hall didn't waste much time taking the lead, scoring on the game's second offensive play when Massey found a seam up the middle, broke a tackle in the secondary and outran defensive back Jamorie Ransom for a 75-yard touchdown.
Quarterback Ben Brooks said they play was designed to take Loyola a bit by surprise.
"It was just a huge play, because they probably thought we were going to come out throwing the ball," Brooks said. "We caught them off guard by coming out and pounding it."
Led by Massey (115 rushing yards) and junior BJ Watson (91 yards) , the Cardinals gained 218 of their 225 yards on the ground.
Loyola blocked the extra point to keep the score 6-0, but the damage had been done.
"One of things I wanted to do was be able to start fast and play with the lead," Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said. "Against a good team like Loyola that's able to come back the way they have several times this season, I knew that lead wasn't safe. I was hoping we'd be able to tack a couple more scores on."
It would turn out to be the game's only score.
The Dons, behind sophomore quarterback Will Koras, also had a strong opening drive, moving inside the Cardinals' 20-yard line on a series of short runs and a 21-yard strike to junior Trevor Henigan. On second down at the 22, however, the snap sailed over the head of Koras, who had to sprint the other way to cover the ball for a loss of 23, ending the threat.
Both teams struggled to move the ball the rest of the half, with Loyola switching to junior Jason Smith — a more run-oriented quarterback — midway through the second quarter.
Koras returned for the Dons to start the third quarter, completing consecutive sideline passes to Nate Leishear and Andreus Price to quickly move to Calvert Hall's 38. Following a pair of incompletions, each defended and nearly picked off by Harried, Koras came up 2 yards short on a fourth-down run.
Watson then immediately drove Calvert Hall deep into Loyola territory, breaking a 42-yard run out of the Wildcat offense to the Dons' 28. The Cardinals, however, were unable to capitalize when Peter Ferrara's 33-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide right.
"I was real proud of the way our defense responded," Hall said. "We stood strong down in the red zone."
Trailing by six, Loyola then put together the longest drive of the game — and came away empty. The Dons drove 71 yards in 19 plays, with Azende' Smith carrying 10 times on the drive.
The Dons converted two fourth downs along the way, including Koras' 15-yard pass to Leishear on fourth-and-5 at the Cardinals' 32.
After Smith was stopped at the line on third-and-2 from the 9, however, Loyola's Gavin Rowley, under heavy pressure from Harried coming off the left side, pushed a 26-yard field-goal attempt wide right.
Loyola's last chance ended on fourth-and-18 from the Cardinals' 30, when Koras overthrew his receiver in the end zone with 3:15 left, and Calvert Hall closed out the win on offense.
Calvert Hall has controlled the series of late after a period of more than 20 years when Loyola dominated its rival.
To Davis, that mattered little.
"All that matters to me is today," Davis said. "For these kids, for these seniors especially, to go out with a win."
Hall, meanwhile, was left lamenting the early play that got away.
"It was one play," Hall said, "but in our sport that's all it takes."