After his group's first-round elimination in Friday evening's championship round of the Ravens' 7-on-7 high school football tournament at M&T Bank Stadium, St. Paul's coach Paul Bernstorf sat cross-legged in a chair at a shaded end of the field. He opened up the book he's been working on this summer.
His players, representing one of the final eight teams to advance from the 64-team field, were with the crowd in the stands behind him in their Under Armour dry-fit T-shirts — highlighter yellow with the word "ATTITUDE" emblazoned on the chest. With each team guaranteed three games, it was the first of two other losses for St. Paul's.
"Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think anybody comes out here thinking they have to win the championship," said Bernstorf, coming after a fall in which he led St. Paul's to an 11-0 record and an MIAA B Conference title. "I think people come out here — at least I come out here — thinking it's a great way for out kids to be together."
His sentiments were echoed over the evening by the other two area schools competing in the finale following the regional round of the event, presented by Under Armour and hosted by the Ravens for a third straight year.
As St. Paul's lost six touchdowns to five against Urbana on one half of the field in its opening 40-minute game, Old Mill came from behind to top McDonogh, 7-6, in an "overtime" drive led by junior quarterback Brady Ludwig on the other half. The Patriots fell to Briar Woods of Virginia, 7-6, in the championship game.
"We want to win everything we do, but we weren't looking ahead to" the championship round, said Ludwig, who was seen orchestrating play action and motion sets, as if he were running a system in a regulation game. "We were wanting to work with our offense, get our defense right."
The last time Ludwig stood on the field at M&T Bank Stadium, he was a freshman on the sidelines watching Old Mill win a Class 4A championship. Friday, he said, was a much different experience.
"Getting chemistry with the receivers, that's my biggest thing," he said. "With 7-on-7, we can build that."
He and the winning team victoriously posed for a Ravens photographer while McDonogh walked off the field.
McDonogh sophomore quarterback Jahnsen Durham said he soaked up the opportunity to familiarize himself with an offense he's inheriting after five starts in 2012.
"I'm trying to just get in the groove of taking over, take it all in," said Durham, whose Eagles squad lost to Northwest, 7-6, in a consolation matchup. "I love reading defenses. That's my life."
Against Old Mill, Durham looked often to Kevin Montgomery, who responded by making several highlight-worthy snags, including a one-handed catch in an end-zone dive while being smothered by defenders. Montgomery, going into his second year at McDonogh, made plays on the defensive end, too.
"It's just fun to be with these guys," Montgomery said, smiling with teammates nearby.
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