Mount Saint Joseph senior running back Alvonte Thompson could barely keep his emotions in check after scoring the game-winning touchdown against No. 2 McDonogh in double overtime Saturday.
"This is a big win. Four years on varsity, never beating McDonogh, so it's just huge," said Thompson, who let go just a few tears of joy after the 36-33 victory.
"Earlier today one of our players … had a headline of last year how St. Frances beat McDonogh, 8-3, so we put that on our board and we said, "Giants fall," and and that's how we took the approach to this game. We were going to make this giant fall and that's exactly what happened with a lot of heart and dedication..."
The host and No. 7-ranked Gaels (4-1) hadn't beaten the two-time defending A Conference champion Eagles (2-2) since 2011 and McDonogh had won 12 of the past 15 games, but Mount Saint Joseph came back twice Saturday, late in regulation and in the second overtime, to win the conference opener for both teams.
"These kids, you've got to give them a lot of credit," first-year Gaels coach Rich Holzer said. "They're really resilient and they've bought into everything we're doing. They've got a 1-0 mentaility and they carried that all week. I'm proud of them because they never gave up and they kept fighting."
The Gaels took the early lead on Thompson's first touchdown, a 2-yard run, and the Eagles didn't score a touchdown until 2:25 remained in the third quarter.
After the Eagles took their first lead, 23-16, on quarterback Jansen Durham's 1-yard keeper with 3:30 left in regulation, Gaels quarterback Bryan Costabile passed for every yard in an 80-yard drive, capping it with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Josh Pieniazek to tie with 1:21 left.
In the first overtime, the Gaels went first and after a penalty and a couple of incomplete passes, Costabile hit Jadan Blue with his second touchdown of the game. Tristan Beaumont added the extra point for a 30-23 lead.
The Eagles then dealt with a holding penalty that backed them up to the 21-yard line, but Durham hit sophomore BJ Farrare with the 21-yard strike. Mike Shinsky tied it with the extra point.
McDonogh went first in the second overtime, but the Gaels stopped the Eagles at the 9-yard line on third down and Shinsky kicked his fourth field goal of the game. The Eagles led 33-30.
Costabile, who was 18-for-32 for 212 yards, started the Gaels rolling with a 7-yard run around the left side. He then handed off to Thompson who roared through the middle for the game-winner.
"The only thing that was going through my mind was big-time players make big-time plays," said Thompson, who ran 10 times for 23 yards. "And I ran over to the coach and I gave him a hand signal that told him one of our run plays. He went with it and I had to execute. He gave faith in me and he trusted me. He gave me the ball and I was like, 'OK, lets make this happen.'"
The Eagles, who won the A Conference title outright in 2013 and shared it with Gilman last season, struggled to finish drives early, keeping pace on Shinsky's field goals — two 37-yarders and a 23-yarder in regulation.
"St. Joe's a very good team, a senior dominated team," Eagles coach Dom Damico said. "Nine of their top 10 players are all seniors. You know you're going to get a great effort. They're going to be a great MIAA team this year because of having so many seniors. They played great. They deserved to win. They made more plays than we did and you've got to give them credit."
Playing without their main offensive weapon, powerful junior running back Mylique McGriff, who was sidelined for undisclosed reasons, the Eagles turned to freshman Jabriel Johnson, who rushed for 87 yards on 23 carries, as well as to senior Durham, who completed 17 of 30 passes for 268 yards.
"It's tough because teams know they can load the box on us and when you've got six or seven guys in the box, you've got to throw the ball," Damico said. "We need some perimeter players to make plays. BJ's one of them but we need some other people to step up and make plays in space, so we're working on that. Noah McCoy stepped up and made some plays today, so if we can keep him going and add one more to that mix, I think we'll have a little better chance of not letting people put seven guys in the box."
Next week, the Gaels will try to make another giant fall when they head to No. 1 Gilman (4-1, 1-0 conference) on Friday afternoon.
M 0 6 7 10 7 3 -- 33
MSJ 7 0 9 7 7 6 --36
MSJ—Thompson 2 run (Beaumont kick)
M—Shinsky 37 FG
M—Shinsky 37 FG
MSJ—Blue 11 pass from Costabile (Beaumont kick)
M—Farrare 37 pass from Durham (Shinsky kick)
M—Shinsky 23 FG
M—Durham 1 run (Shinksy kick)
MSJ—Pieniazek 37 pass from Costabile (Beaumont kick)
MSJ—Blue 15 pass from Costabile (Beaumont kick)
M—Farrare 21 pass from Durham (Shinsky kick)
M—Shinsky 26 FG