McDonogh sophomore defender Michael DeShields had a rare opportunity he couldn't pass up in the closing seconds of Sunday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game against St. Paul's.
With time winding down in regulation and the No. 1 Eagles still needing a goal to secure the program's seventh league championship and an unprecedented unbeaten season, he worked his way to the middle of the penalty area for a corner kick.
Senior midfielder George Campbell's service from the left corner came right to DeShields, whose emphatic header with 10 seconds on the clock made him an instant hero. It was his first goal of the season and came at the most opportune time as McDonogh claimed a 1-0 win over No. 2 St. Paul's at Archbishop Spalding.
"There's a first for everything," said DeShields, who was mobbed by teammates in front of television cameras. "That was the first time I've ever been up there and I was glad it came right to me. It feels great."
The Eagles, who are ranked No. 1 nationally in the Student Sports Fab 50 poll, finish with a 21-0-1 mark — their only blemish coming on Oct. 28 when the same Crusaders (14-4-1) played them to a 3-3, double-overtime tie.
On Sunday, shortly after the ball was placed in the middle of the field following the goal, the final whistle blew and the Eagles marched jubilantly to their cheering section as supporters found their way onto the field.
It was a well-deserved celebration.
Playing in windy conditions, the Eagles were able to withstand the pressure from St. Paul's when the wind favored the Crusaders in the first half. In the second half, the Eagles controlled play and sent shot after shot at St. Paul's goalie Conor Brown (12 saves) before finally getting one past him.
"It was the ideal finish and you really can't describe it," Campbell said. "The first half was a little rough for us. We were going against the wind and they played a great game. At halftime, the coaches were telling us we needed to buzz around; this was the last 40 minutes we're going to have.
"So, we just put it to them and battled the entire 40 and then luckily, the last minute, we got a corner. I whipped it in the middle and Mike DeShields came up huge for us."
The Crusaders also were an incredible story this season. Moving up from the B Conference, they showed they belonged — and then some. After starting 1-2, St. Paul's won 12 straight games and then had the confidence-boosting tie against McDonogh after losing to the Eagles, 4-0, in their first meeting on Sept. 11.
Their best scoring chance came with 6:15 to play in the first half when Nate Hall threaded a pass to Juwan Kearson on the right inside the penalty area. Kearson took one touch before cranking a shot from 10 yards, but McDonogh goalie Calvin Livingston had the angle covered to make the save.
"The season was terrific, I'm so proud of the boys," St. Paul's coach Majid Mirza said. "They played so hard. They shouldn't put their head down. We're not ashamed of anything. We played hard and deserved to be here. It's a hard way to lose a game, but that's the way it works."
Gerstell beats Boys' Latin, 3-2
Gerstell junior Braden Silcott scored with under two minutes to play in regulation to complete the comeback and give the Falcons (16-6) their first MIAA B Conference championship, 3-2 over Boys' Latin.
The defending champion Lakers (12-6-1) took a 2-1 lead with 18:04 to play when Drew Shaifer scored, but the Falcons were quick to respond when junior Nicholas Wilson recorded a goal less than a minute later. It set the stage for Silcott, who finished off a chance from 25 yards for the game-winner.
IAAM A Championship
(at Archbishop Spalding)
1 McDonogh , 2 St. Paul's
Goals: M -- DeShields
Assists: M -- Campbell
Saves: M – Livingston 4; SP – Brown 12.