The No. 2 McDonogh football team has been riddled with injuries this month, from its starting quarterback to several other key players on each side of the ball. Fortunately for the Eagles, injuries have not put a dent in their lines.
On Saturday, a young No. 6 Mount Saint Joseph team could not contend with the Eagles up front as McDonogh rolled to a 37-7 win in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference win.
Although the host Gaels moved the ball early with screen passes and short runs, the McDonogh defensive line of PJ Mustipher, Chris Smith, Dvon Ellies, Jared Altice and Griffin Catlett gave them little after that.
“Their line is just really good. They just beat us up. We couldn’t hold up against them,” Gaels coach Rich Holzer said. “Their defensive line is so talented we’re double-teaming guys and they’re still splitting the double team and getting to the quarterback.”
The Gaels’ only touchdown came when Juan Mendoza bounced off a few players inside and raced to the outside for a 63-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
By then, the Eagles (6-2, 3-1 conference) had already scored 37 points.
“I think football at all levels is won up front,” McDonogh coach Dom Damico said. “That’s the strength of our team, so we’re going to try to make sure we control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in as many games as we can.”
On the offensive side, the line blew holes open for Jabriel Johnson to run 18 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Nathan Walsh also ran for a touchdown and hit Curtis Jacobs with a pair of touchdown passes.
McDonogh forced three Gaels turnovers and scored 16 points off of them. The first came on a safety when the Eagles tackled Gaels quarterback William Atkins just as he started to pass. The ball came loose and after a scramble for it, Gaels lineman Pat Fitzmaurice fell on it in the end zone.
Sa’id Raim and Jackson Bonitz each had an interception that set up an Eagles touchdown, including Walsh’s 18-yard scoring pass to Jacobs just before time expired in the first half for a 30-0 lead.
Walsh has played quarterback this fall along with DeJuan Ellis, who remained sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered two weeks ago in a loss to No. 1 St. Frances. Damico said he is expected to return next week. Defensive back Darius Pickett is also expected back from a shoulder injury. Wide receiver-defensive back BJ Farrare, who suffered a broken bone in his foot against St. Frances, could return for the playoffs.
“A lot of key players are injured, like our starting quarterback, starting strong safety, starting wide receiver, so everybody knew we had to step up,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of second string guys starting so we had to step it up today. We had a good scheme coming in, so I just trusted my line, got to where I needed to go and trusted what I had to do.”
Johnson, who has also been a little banged up too with minor shoulder and ankle injuries, praised the Eagles’ trainers, who’ve had a big job this season.
“Everybody’s in the training room all day just trying to get healthy,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to do what we do based on the players we have. We’ve got good players who want to try to win the championship this year, so we’re going to have dedicated players. We’ve just got to get everybody healthy.”
With playoffs returning to the A Conference this fall, beginning Nov. 11, Damico said getting healthy is critical to the final two games against Calvert Hall and Gilman and to making a run at the league title.
“Calvert Hall and Gilman are both very good teams,” he said. “You watch tape and they have quarters of really good football. If either one of those teams puts a whole game together, they’re going to be pretty good.”
Mount Saint Joseph, which got two interceptions from Matt McDonald, defeated Good Counsel early in the season but has lost two of its past three conference games. The Gaels (5-3, 2-2) have a tough route to the playoffs with their remaining games against defending conference champion St. Frances (8-0, 5-0) and No. 3 Archbishop Spalding (4-3, 2-2).
“I just told the kids, we’ve got to stop making mistakes,” Holzer said. “We can’t use the excuse of being a young team right now. They’re on the field, it is what it is and they’ve got to play. They’ve got to stop making mistakes. Otherwise, it’s going to be the same results.”
MCD 16 14 7 0 — 37
MSJ 0 0 7 0 — 7
MCD—Johnson 4 run (Beattie kick)
MCD—Jacobs 4 pass from Walsh (Beattie kick)
MCD—Johnson 4 run (Beattie kick)
MCD—Jacobs 18 pass from Walsh (Beattie kick)
MCD—Walsh 1 run (Beattie kick)
MSJ—Mendoza 63 run (Atkins kick)