For more than three quarters yesterday, St. Paul's hung right with 12th-ranked Loyola. The host Crusaders twice held leads as junior Brendan Gill picked apart the Dons' secondary.
But with the game tied at 21, visiting quarterback Brennan Creaney led an energy-sapping 60-yard, 12-play scoring drive that spelled the beginning of the end for the Crusaders. Loyola went on to a 47-21 victory -- the 195th for 33-year coach Joe Brune.
Creaney made it 29-21 with his 3-yard scoring run and a subsequent conversion pass to Matt Raubach, as Loyola scored 26 points in the game's final 9: 20 of the season opener for both squads.
The spree included interception returns by Ricky Schultz and Derek Melchor of 60 and 52 yards, respectively, preceded by a 3-yard touchdown run from Conor Bell.
Melchor also had two sacks, and both Mike McKenna and Matt Suh had interceptions as the Dons overcame valiant efforts from Gill (16-for-27, 210 yards, two touchdowns) and receiver Walter Hill (six receptions, 71 yards).
"We had some trouble on defense, but we are kind of young back there," said Creaney, who rushed for 137 yards on 10 carries. "We'll work on our passing game, but we just went with the run because that's what worked today."
Creaney rushed three times for 50 yards in the Dons' impressive six-play, 71-yard opening scoring drive. It ended with Mike Alfone rushing for his first of three 2-yard touchdowns in the first half and it gave Loyola a 6-0 lead at 9: 49 of the first period.
The Crusaders responded, however, by taking a 14-6 lead with 8: 54 left in the first half.
St. Paul's led 7-6 with 2: 45 left in the first quarter after Donnell Stewart's 2-yard run finished a 13-play, 75-yard drive.
Clay Goodier's interception set up Gill's 40-yard tipped touchdown pass to tackle Lee Penno. Gill faced third-and-20 when he found Penno, whose score was followed by Brent Hargest's second of three extra-point kicks for a 14-6 lead.
Tied at 14, however, McKenna's 47-yard interception return to the Crusaders' 7-yard line set up Alfone's final score for a 21-14 lead that Loyola held at the half.
St. Paul's tied the game at 21 with 3: 54 left in the third period on Stewart's 13-yard scoring reception.
"The curl pass was working for us, but after their first interception they got a momentum shift," Gill said. "We don't have a lot of depth on our offensive line, and that hurt us."
Gill was perfect on his first six passes for 91 yards in the first half. In the Crusaders' initial scoring drive alone, the 5-foot-10 signal caller was 5-for-5 for 50 yards.
It was not until the second half that Gill began to force things as Melchor and the rest of the Dons' defense began to find seams in the Crusaders' offensive line.
"We came out flat in the first half, and maybe a little cocky, expecting to blow these guys out," said Melchor. "But they surprised us and really showed that they are a good team."
Second-team All-Metro linebacker Jon Berrier of St. Paul's had one sack.
The game was the first between the two programs in the tenure of coach Brune, whose Dons are attempting to win their fourth Maryland Interscholastic Association A Conference title in the past five years.
St. Paul's, led by fourth-year coach Brian Abbott, had won four straight MIAA B Conference crowns before being dethroned by two-time champ McDonogh two years ago.
Pub Date: 9/04/99