McDonogh’s No. 1 football team put a dent in No. 4 Mount Saint Joseph’s best start in 20 years Thursday night, feeding off its stellar defense for a 24-0 victory in the Eagles’ first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game.
The host Eagles, the defending A Conference champions, scored 14 unanswered points in the first quarter, sparked by a couple of big defensive plays, to deal the Gaels their first loss of the season.
On the Gaels’ first drive, Eagles linebacker Wyatt Cook, last season’s All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year, forced a fumble and defensive end Michael Cornwell recovered it.
The Eagles needed just four plays to drive 54 yards for their first touchdown less than three minutes into the game. Sophomore running back Mylique McGriff, a transfer from Calvert Hall, ran for 50 yards on the drive and, after a false start penalty, quarterback Jansen Durham hit Cornwell, who is 6-feet-5 and doubles as a receiver, with a 7-yard touchdown pass.
Mount Saint Joseph steadily progressed on its next drive with a few short runs by Nevone McCrimmon and a couple of 8-yard passes from quarterback Bryan Costible to Brandon Batts, but the Gaels couldn’t convert on fourth-and-2 when McCrimmon was tackled for a 3-yard loss by safety Eric Burrell.
Six plays into the next Eagles’ drive, McGriff broke loose for a 48-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 McDonogh lead with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
Defense continued to drive the Eagles led by linebackers Cook, Connor Young and Cameron Harrell.
“You’ve got seven or eight really good players on their defense,” Mount Saint Joseph coach Blake Henry said. “They’ve got guys at all levels that can hit you. They’ve got a great free safety, they’ve got a few great linebackers and they’ve got some big D linemen.”
The Eagles did a great job containing the cornerstone of the Gaels offense, 6-foot, 215-pound power runner McCrimmon, who gained more than 140 yards in each of the three games he’s played this fall and had 222 on 11 carries in Saturday’s win at Loyola. Thursday night, he managed 37 yards on 13 carries in the first half and had only one long run of 28 yards that came in the second half.
“We knew they were going to give it to him. He was going to get 30-40 carries,” Cook said. “We just needed to stop him. We just needed to tackle (No.) 2, tackle 2 all week (in practice), and we did a great job of doing that. They abandoned that, because they couldn’t get anything. Once we stopped [McCrimmon], they started to pass and that’s just not the strong point of their offense.”
The Gaels (5-1, 1-1) had a chance to get a little momentum going late in the first half even though a long drive stalled. James Nelson attempted a 15-yard field goal, but the kick carried wide and McDonogh made it worse by marching close enough for its kicker Mike Shinsky, who nailed a 42-yarder for a 17-0 halftime lead.
While McDonogh coach Dom Damico felt his team could have played better on offense and should have scored three more touchdowns, McGriff sealed the win with a 7-yard touchdown run with 8:02 left in the game.
“He’s special because he can run hard in the tackles,” Damico said of the 5-feet-10, 190-pound McGriff, who had 189 yards on 25 carries, “and when he feels pressure his pad level goes down. Then when he gets in space, he’s very nifty and quick, so he’s a difficult back to stop.”
The Eagles improve to 3-2 overall after playing a grueling early-season schedule against teams from out of state.
“The first four games we played against national level teams, which were really, really good and got us ready for the league,” Damico said. “LaSalle (Pa.), they had probably the best passing game we’ve ever seen here in 20 years. Elder in Cincinnati, they could run the ball really well. St. Joe Regional (N.J.) was a powerhouse running team, so we feel we got the kids ready by playing that schedule early and I think it helped us tonight.”
Mount Saint Joseph, which needs just one more win to equal its total from the last two years combined, played some tough early competition too, including Bullis and Bishop McNamara, but the Gaels hadn’t seen anything like the McDonogh defense.
“We have some pretty good players too,” Henry said, “but we made silly mistakes on offense and when you do that against a great team, you lose 24-0.”
MSJ 0 0 0 0 -- 00
MCD 14 3 0 7 -- 24
MCD—Cornwell 7 pass from Durham (Shinsky kick)
MCD—McGriff 48 run (Shinky kick)
MCD—Shinsky 42 FG
MCD—McGriff 7 run (Shinsky kick)