Loyola coach Joe Brune stared at the Mount St. Joseph scoreboard, sighed heavily, and muttered, "This, I can't believe."
In a 37-21 victory moments earlier, Brune had watched his sophomore quarterback Brant Hall (135 yards rushing, 113 passing) lead his unranked Dons to a season-high point total, and defensive back Tim Nicholas help hold Maryland's top-ranked team below its 45-point average.
The win, the Dons' (5-4, 3-1) fifth straight after an 0-4 start, keeps them in the hunt for the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's A Conference crown and ended Maryland's longest winning streak at 13.
Loyola's last loss was to St. Mary's, a 21-13 winner over Calvert Hall yesterday. It can clinch a three-way tie for the crown with St. Mary's and St. Joe by beating Calvert Hall on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23.
"Being 0-4 after St. Mary's was rock bottom," said Nicholas, "This is the complete summit."
Gaels quarterback Lucas Phillips went 12-for-27 for 279 yards and touchdowns of 55 and 72 yards to receiver Danny Rosewag (five receptions, 162 yards).
But Phillips, flushed from the pocket most of the afternoon by linemen such as Ryan Burch, threw interceptions to John Price, Mike Latchford, Tim Nicholas and Chris Wilkins, and was sacked by Josh Foti.
Conversely, Hall optioned wisely, scoring Loyola's next-to-last touchdown from a yard out. Eddie Holman scored Loyola's final touchdown from seven yards.
"We had more turnovers than ever," said Gaels' coach Mike Working. "But Joe [Brune] also diversified his offense and picked us apart."
The Gaels were without standout running back Archie Wannamaker (1,731 yards, 33 touchdowns), who was benched for reasons coach Mike Working would not reveal, and without him, Loyola's defense held five ball carriers to just 74 yards and had a third-quarter goal-line stand.
"It's a team matter and it stays within the team, but we have very high standards for both conduct and academics," said Working, whose Gaels (9-1, 4-1) capitalized on the first turnover -- Nick Thompson's fumble recovery -- for a 7-0 lead.
Thompson set up a 56-yard, five-play drive that ended with Matt O'Donnell (four receptions, 58 yards) scoring from six yards, and Jim James' conversion kick. But Loyola responded with 18 unanswered points, set up by three turnovers.
Four plays after John Price's interception at the Gaels' 38, Matt Smith (103 yards, nine carries) scored from the 4.
Then Latchford's interception ended the Gaels' next series at the St. Joe 34, and three plays later, Smith dove into the end zone from the 3. Mount St. Joseph trailed, 12-7, for the first time this season.
After Nicholas' fumble recovery at the Gaels' 24, Hall found Art Price on a 23-yard down-and-in and an 18-7 lead 10:40 before halftime.
Phillips to Rosewag for 55 yards, coupled with Josh Ferguson's conversion run, made it, 18-15 with six minutes left. But Smith's 6-yard scoring run capped an 80-yard, six-play drive for a 24-15 lead. An ankle injury prevented Smith from returning for the second half, but the Dons were in a rhythm.
"Their ends were biting every time I faked to our running back, Channon Young," Hall said. "They couldn't stop us."