This was a season filled with frustration for the Loyola football team.
Bad breaks, a tough schedule, injuries and other problems limited the Dons to two victories in their first nine games.
But Loyola's 16-11 victory over Calvert Hall yesterday before a sell-out crowd of 6,500 at Minnegan Stadium in their 74th annual Thanksgiving Day meeting helps erase some of the season's bitter taste.
"It wiped out the rest of the season," said Loyola running back Scott Brown. "We finished 3-7, but in our house, we're 1-0."
The Dons (3-4 in the Maryland Scholastic Association Armstrong A Conference) came out fired up and never let down. Loyola scored on its first possession and never trailed.
Loyola coach Joe Brune said the rivalry brought out the best in his team, which has won five straight (and eight of the past nine) against the Cardinals and leads the series, 35-30-9.
"It certainly does prove to the players that we're better than 3-7," said Brune. "When you're going through a season like we're in, what [the tradition of this game] does is if you have any football instincts inside of you, they'll come out in this game."
And they certainly did. Brown (24 carries for 103 yards) and Brian Oates (10 carries for 90 yards) sparked a running game responsible for both of Loyola's touchdowns.
Brown said the offensive line, led by Faraji Mason and Rodell Phaire, opened big holes for Oates and him.
"Everything clicked today," said Brown. "It all came together. We always seemed like we were falling an inch short. Today we didn't."
The Dons drove 60 yards on six plays to score their first touchdown with 7:12 left in the first quarter on a 3-yard run by Brown. Oates made the key play, breaking free for 47 yards, which put the Dons on the Calvert Hall 3-yard line. Brown scored one play later, and quarterback Brian Nicholas threw to Oates for the conversion and an 8-0 lead.
The Dons' other touchdown came on an 11-play, 56-yard drive in the third quarter. All 11 plays were on the ground, with Brown carrying nine times. The junior celebrated his 16th birthday with a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:10 left. Nicholas threw to Karl Zeller for a 16-0 lead.
Calvert Hall (5-5, 1-6) moved the ball well. Kevin Tyler (128 yards on 25 carries) sparked the Cardinals, but they could not get on the board.
Calvert Hall drove to the Loyola 28-, 27- and 1-yard lines in the first half, but came away with no points. Loyola stopped Calvert Hall at the 1 on the final two plays of the half. Loyola linemen Mason and Ian Hunt led the charge that stopped Chris Nohe as time ran out.
The Cardinals scored after Brown's second touchdown when quarterback Dennis Grinestaff hit Chris Hayes with a 47-yard touchdown pass and then a two-point conversion with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Cardinals drove again in the fourth quarter, but stalled at the Loyola 11. Steve Behnken kicked a 29-yard field goal with 3:16 left, but Calvert Hall could do no more.
"Their line outplayed our line," said Calvert Hall coach Bill Mackley. "[This game] is a great tradition. This is what football should be."
The Dons agreed.
Said Oates: "It was still a tough season. [This] helps even things out."