Down by three points at the half of yesterday's league title game at unranked St. Paul's, McDonogh's Eric King said coach Dom Damico "looked me in the eyes and said, 'I'm going to put the game in your hands.' "
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder was ready, using punishing power, great speed and second effort in running around, past and over the Crusaders (5-3, 5-1) in a come-from-behind, 14-3 win.
King's 17 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns helped McDonogh (8-0, 7-0) win its third straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference title. With it, the No. 6 Eagles stretched their winning streak against league opponents to 21 games.
His 11-yard scoring run with 18 seconds left in the third period finished off an 11-play, 76-yard drive. And his 2-yard run with 6: 23 to play ended a 10-play, 54-yard drive. Joe Benson's extra-point kicks followed each of King's scores.
Although he's primarily being recruited as a defensive back -- Wake Forest, James Madison and Temple already have offered full football scholarships -- King has displayed excellent skills as a running back.
"I missed all of last football season with shoulder surgery, but I knew, if I was patient, the day would come where I could play running back," said King, an All-Metro track selection in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and long jump.
With his speed -- he clocked a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at a summer combine at Penn State -- King could easily have gone outside on sweeps yesterday. But he chose the direct approach, running primarily, King said, behind Joe Shek, Steve Clare and Kellen Williams.
On the occasions when he met defenders head-on, he often bowled them over or carried two and three at a time.
"I'd much rather smash the ball right at them," said King. "I bench-press 250, squat about 350. I'm a small guy, but I'm strong."
McDonogh's Scott Dolch was 13-for-20 for 147 yards, targeting Walid Hajj (six receptions, 52 yards) and Jay Mayes (four, 52). King had three receptions for 39 yards, and had a second-quarter, 65-yard scoring reception nullified by a clipping penalty.
St. Paul's dominated the first half, converting three fourth-down situations and going deep into McDonogh territory on as many occasions. But McDonogh was bailed out by its defense: David Lunn had a sack and a pass breakup, Jared Goldberg and Pete Backof had one sack each and Joe Benson an interception.
Goldberg's sack and Lunn's pass breakup ended St. Paul's drives at the Eagles' 32- and 8- yard lines, respectively.
"We were complacent, and they drove the ball on us," said McDonogh's Penn State-bound linebacker, T.C. Cosby. "But there wasn't one second where I thought we'd lose this game."
The Crusaders, whose running backs Grant Halford, Donnell Stewart and Ben Bartlett combined for 153 yards, finally scored with five seconds left in the half. Brendan Gill's 23-yard field goal, on fourth-and-four at McDonogh's 6-yard line, capped a 13-play, 56-yard drive for a 3-0 lead.
"We hurt ourselves with a penalty here, a missed block there," said Crusaders coach Brian Abbott. "But they gave the ball to King, who I think is, their best player."
Jon Berrier, Kris Kogelschatz and Lee Penno collectively did a great job clearing the way for St. Paul's running backs.
St. Paul's had won two straight league championships and had a 19-game winning streak in the fall of 1997 before McDonogh began dominating the league.
Contributing writer Maeleeke Lavan provided information for this article.
Pub Date: 10/30/99