St. Frances defensive back Terrell Smith really wanted a pick-six in his senior year. Against McDonogh on Friday night, he got one — and a lot more.
The cornerback intercepted four passes as part of the No. 1 Panthers’ dominant defensive performance in a 28-0 victory over the No. 2 Eagles in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game at Utz Field in Patterson Park.
The Eagles never made it inside the Panthers’ 20-yard line and the two times they drove inside 30, Smith picked off quarterback Nathan Walsh, who split time with DeJuan Ellis. Smith had two interceptions in each half and he returned his third one 30 yards for a touchdown to give the defending conference champion Panthers a 21-0 lead early in the third quarter.
“That felt great. I was telling everybody, ‘I’ve got to get a pick-six this season,’ and next thing you know I see [McDonogh] break down, I broke on the ball and took it to the house,” Smith said.
Until three weeks ago, Smith’s four interceptions would’ve tied a state record, but Atholton’s Jake Peretti had five in a game on Sept. 15, so Smith joins a long list of players with four.
“He almost had the fifth one,” St. Frances coach Henry Russell said. “He’s been through a tough year, so I’m just thrilled for the kid. … I thought he did a great job of finding the ball. It sounds obvious, but when you’re covering kids like McDonogh’s kids who can run and can catch and have great speed, you’re just trying to stay with the guy, let alone find the ball. It was an incredible job tonight.”
Smith’s performance was just the standout showing in an otherwise overwhelming defensive effort by the Panthers (6-0), who have allowed just seven points in opening 3-0 in the conference.
Defensive back Breon Noel also had an interception and most of the rest of the defense, led by senior Under Armour All-American defensive end Eyabi Anoma, excelled en route to the Panthers’ fourth shutout of the season.
Joachim Bangda, who scored all of the Panthers’ touchdowns in a 28-7 win over No. 5 Calvert Hall two weeks ago, had two rushing touchdowns. He opened the game with an 8-yard scoring run on the Panthers’ second drive of the game and closed it with a 7-yard score with six minutes left.
Early in the second quarter, St. Frances quarterback Jalon Jones threw two passes that were dropped or they would’ve gone for touchdowns, so he took matters into his own hands and ran for a 40-yard score.
“My center (Antionio Derry) was like, ‘If they’re dropping the ball, go out and do what you’ve got to do,’” Jones said. “It was crazy. We had dropped touchdown passes on second and third down, so I just came back when my team needed me to step up.”
Jones credited his offensive line with opening the hole that let him run down the middle, and also gave Bangda holes to run through much of the game.
“My offensive line is the best in the country. They do so much and our whole offense does so much,” Jones said of linemen Josh Miller, Jaelyn Duncan, Derry, Peace Addo, Malik Morgan and Darrian Dalcourt. “Our receivers do such a good job running their routes that that draws everybody out to cover them and when everybody’s out covering them, that opens up the run lanes and our offensive line, they blow all of it open, so we can go and get it.”
The Panthers are ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 22 in USA Today’s Super 25. This was their third win in the past four meetings with McDonogh (4-2, 1-1), whose only other loss has been to DeMatha.
Eagles coach Dom Damico said the Panthers are just at another level.
“They’re just a way better team,” Damico said. “They’re bigger, stronger, faster, better. They’re like a college football team. It’s like a college team versus a high school team. We’re not deep enough or strong enough to play them. That’s just a different breed of football. … They’re playing at the national level trying to win a national championship. We’re trying to make the playoffs in the A Conference. It’s a different approach, but they’re a great team.”
The Eagles, ranked No. 4 in Maryland, also didn’t have the depth to stay with the Panthers and it got worse as the game went on with three of their top players going down with injuries.
Senior receiver-defensive back BJ Farrare might have a broken foot. Sophomore linebacker Jackson Bonitz, who recovered a fumble against the Panthers, likely has a compound leg fracture. Sophomore lineman Beau Bedard likely has a stress fracture in an ankle.
The Eagles now have five of their top players out with injuries. Still, they might have another shot at the Panthers in November, because the A Conference brings back playoffs this fall rather than crowning the regular-season winner. The top four teams will qualify.
Next week, the Eagles host Loyola Blakefield and the Panthers will play Gilman at Utz Field. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.
M 0 0 0 0 -- 00
SF 7 7 7 7 -- 28
SF—Bandga 8 run (Larson kick)
SF—Jones 40 run (Larson kick)
SF—Smith 30 int ret. (Larson kick)
SF—Bangda 7 run (Larson kick)