As teammates knelt motionless along the Calvert Hall sideline in the second overtime yesterday, defensive back Vincent Delaney delivered the finishing move the Cardinals had been after for 12 years.
With archrival Loyola going for a two-point conversion and the win in the annual Turkey Bowl, Delaney burst through the line on a blitz, causing quarterback J. G. Guidera to hurry his pass to Will Cromwell in the flat. As the ball fell short, No. 8 Calvert Hall had managed to preserve a 7-6 win, its first in the series since 1988, before 12,486 at PSINet Stadium.
"I knew I had him as soon as he came off the ball because he dropped back and nobody was open," said Delaney. "I knew it was down to me. I knew it was the game."
After twice having drives end inches shy of the Calvert Hall goal line - including once in overtime - the Dons seemed to get a reprieve when Cardinals kicker Alec Knight missed a potential game-winning 20-yard field goal. Moments later, however, Knight bounced back to kick the eventual winning extra point following one of the most fortuitous touchdowns in the 81-year history of the series.
Facing second down from the Loyola 10-yard line in the second overtime, Calvert Hall ran an option play to the right, with quarterback Bobby Griffin keeping the ball. Just shy of the goal line, Griffin was hit, and the ball squirted several feet into the air.
Cardinals receiver Jason Forrester, who was downfield to block, leaped high into the air to make the catch, then fell forward into the end zone for the touchdown.
"I saw it go up, and I just jumped up," said Forrester. "When I caught it, I just tried to fall over into the end zone. I looked up to make sure I was over the [goal] line."
"That was a relentless effort," said Cardinals coach Jay Robinson.
There would still be one act remaining. When Loyola (6-5) fullback Sebastian Price scored on the next possession, Dons coach Joe Brune decided to go for two points and the win instead of kicking the extra point and forcing a third overtime.
It would prove to be a costly gamble.
"You've got to try to win the game," said Brune, whose team still leads the all-time series, 42-31, with eight ties. "You can kick the extra point and keep playing. ... but it was something we've practiced and I thought it was worth a try. Sooner or later we're going to have to take a chance."
Robinson said he was surprised at the decision.
"I would've tried to tie it up and keep playing," said Robinson. "He had the right play called, but they just didn't get it executed. We were fortunate."
Calvert Hall (8-1) might've won the game in regulation, but a five-yard delay-of-game penalty midway through the second quarter turned Knight's 36-yard field-goal attempt into a 41-yarder. The kick fell inches shy of the crossbar.
Later, the Dons' Brian Neil would miss a 45-yarder by nearly the same margin.
Most excruciating for Loyola was a fourth-quarter turnover inside the Calvert Hall 1-yard line, when linebacker Matt Gephardt forced running back Mike Alfone to fumble and Cardinals safety Scott Krause recovered.
"We had opportunities," said Brune. "How many times were we down there?"
Brune elected not to attempt a potential go-ahead 18-yard field goal in the first overtime, feeling that it would take at least a touchdown to win.
Loyola 0 0 0 0 0 6 - 6
Calvert Hall 0 0 0 0 0 7 - 7
CH-Forrester fumble recovery in end zone (Knight kick)
L-Price 1 run (pass failed)