Quarterback Preston Howard sneaked in for a 1-yard touchdown in overtime that gave McDonogh a 25-22 victory over Archbishop Spalding in a pivotal Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game Friday night.
In the overtime, host Spalding couldn’t move the ball on its first series from the McDonogh 10, and Ethan McCormick kicked a 28-yard field goal for a 22-19 lead.
McDonogh responded with Giovanni Procaccini rushing for 9 yards on the first play to the 1-yard line. Howard then twisted his way into the end zone, pushing a big pile, and that gave McDonogh (9-0, 3-0) the win and let the Eagles clinch at least a tie for first place at the end of the regular season.
“It was an excellent high school football game and I’m extremely proud of our football team,” Spalding head coach Kyle Schmitt said. “It wasn’t pretty at times but they fought like crazy, got stops late and made a two-minute drive to tie it. We stalled in overtime and they made a play to win the game.”
Howard, who finished the night with 106 yards on 19 carries, was confident his club would finish.
“I knew we were going to get into the end zone in overtime,” Howard said. “(The win) was huge for us. Last year we were 3-6 and now we are 9-0.”
The Cavaliers held a 12-10 lead early in the fourth quarter before everything began to fall apart for them. They fumbled and quarterback Austin Tutas got picked off on two consecutive drives.
The three turnovers on three straight possessions kept the Spalding offense off the field and opened the door for McDonogh to rally for 10 straight points.
First came a fumble that the Eagles recovered at the Spalding 23. Four plays later, Curtis Jacobs caught a 25-yard bullet from Howard for a touchdown. The snap on the extra point was bad, and McDonogh couldn’t get off a kick but held a 16-12 lead with 9:17 left.
Then, on the first play of the next Cavaliers’ drive, Niles Riding of McDonogh intercepted Tutas at the Spalding 23. Four plays later, Harrison Beattie kicked a 30-yard field goal which extended the lead to 19-12.
Jamir Roberts then picked off Tutas on the third play of the next drive and gave the Eagles the ball at the Spalding 30, but McDonogh came up empty.
Spalding’s offense awakened late in the fourth quarter and made a long drive, tying the game when Tutas threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Molayo Irefin with 1:19 left. After another McDonogh turnover (interception), the Cavaliers tried to drive but Tutas threw an interception as the clock ran out.
That set up the overtime and Howard’s big touchdown.
“McDonogh is extremely talented and their two way player Curtis Jacobs was the difference tonight. He challenged us on both sides of the ball," Schmitt said.
Spalding (5-4, 1-2) scored on its first possession of the game, thanks to a fortunate bounce. The Cavaliers punted but the ball hit a McDonogh player running downfield, and Spalding recovered at the Eagles’ 38. Later, Spalding got a McCormick 38-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
McDonogh then tied it when Beattie kicked a 27-yard field goal on the next drive. The Cavaliers fumbled on the ensuing possession, and the Eagles recovered and took a 10-3 lead when Howard threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Jacobs with 2:08 left in the first quarter.
Howard got flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone on the second play of the second quarter. That gave Spalding a safety, and the Cavaliers went ahead on the next drive when Tutas threw a 22-yard touchdown to Bryson Carter.
Cory Butts kicked the extra point that gave Spalding a 12-10 lead with 10:11 left in the half. The Eagles tried to score later in the period after a long drive but Will Merton from the Cavaliers blocked a Beattie 33-yard field goal try in the final minute and Spalding kept the two-point lead at the break.
McDonogh then had another long drive to start the second half — 7 minutes, 32 seconds — but the Eagles came up empty when Howard was pushed back for a three-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Spalding has now lost two straight MIAA A Conference contests after having previously suffered a heartbreaking defeat at Calvert Hall. Now the Cavaliers must gear up for another tough matchup in Mount St. Joseph.
“Our goals are all still in front of us. We have a shot at the MIAA A championship and are hoping to play our best football in November,” Schmitt said.
M -- 10 0 0 9 6 - 25
AS -- 3 9 0 7 3 - 22
A- McCormick 38 FG
M- Beattie 27 FG
M- Jacobs 17 pass from Howard (Beattie kick)
A- Safety, intentional grounding in end zone
A- Carter 22 pass from Tutas (Butts kick)
M- Jacobs 25 pass from Howard (run failed)
M- Beattie 30 FG
A- Irefin 27 pass from Tutas (Butts kick)
A- McCormick 28 FG
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M- Howard 1 run (no extra point attempted)