In yesterday's 22-13 victory over visiting Blair Academy of New Jersey, No. 3 McDonogh (8-0) played a near-perfect first half.
Eagles quarterback Bobby Sabelhaus was 8-for-9 passing for 106 yards and a conversion pass to Mike Working. McDonogh scored on three of its four possessions en route to a 22-7 halftime lead, with running back/wide receiver Dwayne Stukes scoring his 10th and 11th touchdowns of the year.
But the second half was as ugly as the first was beautiful, including Sabelhaus' 1-for-6 passing in the third period. He was sacked twice for minus-27 yards, but finished 11-for-19 overall for 154 of the Eagles' 228 yards.
And when the final whistle sounded, the 6-foot-7 Sabelhaus knew where the credit belonged.
"Our defense really helped us out," said Sabelhaus, who has 1,693 passing yards for 16 touchdowns. "To beat Gilman next weekend, we're going to have to put four quarters together."
Blair (4-4), last year's New Jersey private league champ, had a game-opening drive that consumed eight minutes and covered 70 yards before stalling at McDonogh's 16 on an incomplete pass.
McDonogh's defense stopped a fake punt in the second quarter, giving the Eagles the ball at the Buccaneers' 29. Four plays later, Jeff Miyamoto scored McDonogh's final touchdown from a yard away, and Sabelhaus' second point-after kick made it 22-7.
Blair was driving at McDonogh's 44 when Dante Evans got his first of two interceptions with 1:47 left in the half.
Working's hit on running back Greg Turko (18 carries, 98 yards) caused a third-quarter fumble, which teammate Mike Layden recovered. Another Buccaneers drive ended with Dennis Badham's fourth-quarter interception. Badham also had three receptions for 49 yards.
"We knew they didn't have the best quarterback, so we just dropped back, waiting for interceptions," said Evans. "They liked to pound the ball down the middle, so our main focus was to stop the run."
The Eagles didn't stop Turko, who has 558 yards and 10 touchdowns, or Jason Patterson (544, seven) so much as capitalize on Blair's critical mistakes.
Blair had 319 total offensive yards -- 200 on the ground. It scored in the first and fourth periods, the latter with 37 seconds left as Patterson (19 carries, 74 yards) went over from 4 yards.
"We watched tapes of them all week. They were so big my eyes popped out of my head," said Badham, who raised his season totals to 28 receptions for 697 yards and eight touchdowns.
"Our defense may bend, but won't break," said Working, son of the coach by the same name. "We saw them playing both ways, so we just tired them and let our offense take over."
McDonogh led 7-0 with 2:19 left in the first period after Stukes' 7-yard run capped an eight-play, 84-yard march. The Buccaneers stormed back at 9:19 of the second quarter, going 90 yards in 13 plays before Patterson scored on an 8-yard misdirection play to the right.
Stukes scored again -- this time from 2 yards -- to end an eight-play, 56-yard drive with 5:32 left in the half. Sabelhaus completed four passes for 46 yards in the drive, including a 24-yarder to Evans. Working's conversion catch made it 15-7.
Blair's next possession called for a fake punt on fourth-and-five on its 29, but Turko gained only a yard. Sabelhaus completed passes of 13 yards each to Badham and Jason Taylor, setting up Miyamoto's effort.