One explosive fourth-quarter spurt yesterday ended more than three quarters of utter frustration for No. 7 Mount St. Joseph.
After going scoreless for the first 38:40 against upset-minded McDonogh, thanks to a spate of costly interceptions, untimely penalties and failed third-down conversions, the host Gaels took command with three touchdowns in a span of 5:36, then held on for a 21-14 win to remain tied for first place in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
"It was a wake-up call," fullback Leroy Bradford said. "Everybody came out here [after halftime] ready to play. I wasn't running hard enough, so in the second half I told myself I had to run harder and step up my game."
Bradford did just that, finishing with 16 carries for 85 yards, including 55 on one 14-play drive that tied the score at 7 with 9:20 left.
"We just decided at halftime that we were going to run the ball and try to wear them out," Gaels coach Chip Armstrong said. "We thought we could wear them down if we just ran our fullback off tackle. We went back to our bread and butter."
The Gaels (4-1, 2-0 conference) ran the ball 19 straight times at one point.
They took the lead, however, after their defense forced a punt from McDonogh's 9-yard line. Speedy senior Artis Holt returned it 20 yards to the Eagles' 26, and five plays later Brandon Kendrick caught a screen pass from Chris Costabile and hurdled defensive back Gabe Macis to get into the end zone.
The Gaels then all but sealed the win seconds later, when on McDonogh's next play from scrimmage, defensive back Stephen Spindler picked off Rudy Johnson's pass at the 36, made one cutback and raced to the end zone to extend the lead to 21-7 with 3:44 left.
The Eagles (2-4, 1-2) scored late, but their hopes ended when the Gaels recovered a muffed punt return with 1:12 left, then ran out the clock.
"We played hard for the first half, then we started getting out-physicaled inside a little bit," said McDonogh coach Dom Damico, whose team has lost four straight. "We're kind of light up front, and they started running the ball between the tackles. We tried to fight as hard as we could and hold on, but sometimes it doesn't work out."
Mount St. Joseph's win set up Saturday's game at No. 2 Loyola in what will be one of most pivotal matchups in the conference this season.
NO. 9 HEREFORD 42, PARKVILLE 14: : Hasani Cromwell and Harold Williams each scored two touchdowns and totaled 54 rushing yards to power the visiting Bulls (4-2) past the Knights (1-5). Williams had seven rushes and Cromwell had eight. Nick DePaola added 11 rushes for 76 yards for Hereford.