The level of play had lost its edge and the noise in the stands had subsided significantly with 30 minutes of soccer remaining Tuesday, when No. 1 Mount St. Joseph was playing host to No. 4 McDonogh in the highly anticipated rematch of last year's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game.
Credit the visiting Eagles.
Still smarting from the championship-game loss and looking only at what was directly in front of them, the McDonogh players were precise and methodical in the minutes that counted the most.
With a goal seven minutes into play and two more five minutes into the second half -- senior forward Kyle DeVinney accounted for the first two -- the Eagles came away with a surprising 3-0 win over the Gaels in the league opener for both teams.
McDonogh, which rebounded well after being upset by Perry Hall over the weekend, improved to 5-1, while the Gaels dropped to 3-1 on the season.
None of the three meetings between the teams last year -- each enjoyed a tightly contested one-goal win during the regular season before the Gaels earned the conference crown on penalty kicks after 100 scoreless minutes -- was decided until the final whistle.
This time, McDonogh ended the suspense early.
The Eagles took the lead when DeVinney headed home a free kick sent in from the left side by Malcolm Harris. They stayed organized in the back to limit the Gaels' opportunities and put the game away early in the second half, with DeVinney heading home another chance and an own goal that resulted from a crisp through ball sent in by Mike Gamble.
"This game meant a lot to us. We were able to get a quick goal and went on from there and took it to them," DeVinney said. "I don't have the best footwork in the world, so to make up for that is getting in the right place, and that's what I did today. I got my head on a couple balls, and there you go."
After surrendering the early goal, the Gaels pieced together some passes through midfield later in the half but could not break through to find the equalizer. The home team's halftime adjustments went for naught after Mount St. Joseph gave up the two goals quickly in the second half. The Gaels have no time to hang their heads, since they visit No. 2 Loyola on Thursday.
"I told the kids it's just one game and that we had some tough ones like that last year as well. We just have to regroup, stay together and understand it's a long season," Mount St. Joseph coach Mike St. Martin said.
Goals: McD — DeVinney 2, own. Assists: McD — Harris, Kennedy. Saves: McD — Sanchz 3; MSJ — Ramsland 3. Half: McD, 1-0.