After scores on each of its first two possessions, the Calvert Hall football team threatened to turn Thursday's 98th Turkey Bowl into an early rout. When the big plays stopped coming, however, the Cardinals knew they needed to go back to basics.
"We just had to compose ourselves, and get away from the big crowd and the circumstances going on," quarterback Mike Campbell said. "Settle back down and get back to running our stuff, and running it right."
University of Maryland-bound Chance Campbell scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to go along with an interception and two sacks as Calvert Hall broke open a tight game with a pair of second-half touchdowns in a 27-6 win over archrival Loyola Blakefield before an announced 9,302 at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"We kind of went back to what we did earlier in the season. Just play hard, play fast, play together," Chance Campbell said. "We just kind of knuckled down."
No. 10 Calvert Hall (7-5) has won four straight and eight of nine in the venerable series, which began in 1920, the same year as the NFL. Loyola (2-8) still leads 49-41-8 all-time.
Led by a senior-laden offensive line averaging 282 pounds per starter, Calvert Hall outgained Loyola 359-197, amassing 211 yards on the ground. Time and again, the Cardinals' line opened huge holes for running backs Jordan McLaughlin, Tariq Fields and Ethan McCarthy.
"Those guys were just tremendous today," Cardinals coach Donald Davis said. "I told them we were going to put the game in their hands in the second half, and they were ready to the task."
Early on, however, the game looked to be a rout, when Calvert Hall scored touchdowns on its first two possessions.
After Chance Campbell sacked Loyola quarterback Jeffrey Snider to force a punt on the Dons’ opening possession, the Cardinals struck gold on their third offensive play when Mike Campbell found wide receiver Chris Cooper open over the middle and the speedy senior ran untouched for an 88-yard score.
Calvert Hall continued to move the ball on its next possession, time and again darting through huge holes. Fields skirted through one of those holes on a 40-yard run to the Dons' 10, and two plays later Chance Campbell finished the drive with a 7-yard run through a gaping hole on the left side.
"That was huge," Mike Campbell said. "Coach Davis stressed all week about being the first team to the punch, and playing fast and physical from the start. We play our best when we come out fast, so that definitely set the tone for us."
The Cardinals had a chance to extend their lead, but defensive back Matthew Bell picked off Campbell's pass — thrown in the endzone a hair too late — to end the drive.
"We felt like we weren't really playing with a lot of pride the first couple of possessions, and guys were just kind of out there and getting pushed around," Loyola first-year coach Anthony Zehyoue said. "At that point, the game could've easily gotten out of hand, and I just challenged the guys to play with pride and play with effort. We weren't doing the things that we're coached to do."
In what looked to be a blowout, Loyola got back into the game when Calvert Hall punter Peter Moore picked up an errant snap and was ruled down at his own 35. Moments later, Loyola freshman quarterback Jordan Moore rolled right and found tight end Evan Boozer — on just his second reception of the season — for a 12-yard touchdown. The Cardinals' Luke Firlie blocked the extra-point attempt to keep the score 14-6.
Loyola's defense kept the game close, stopping Calvert Hall on seven straight possessions.
"Their kids tightened up. They were tough," Davis said. "They weren't just going to go away. We were able to sort of get our bearings about us and answer in our own way."
In the second half, the Cardinals scored a pair of unanswered touchdowns to seal the win. Sophomore receiver Adewale Obayanju cut through a hole and dashed 28 yards to cap a 66-yard drive late in the third quarter. Chance Campbell later intercepted a pass tipped at the line by Reggie Sutton and scored six players later on a 6-yard run.
Campbell, a linebacker by trade, hadn't played much running back this season before Thursday, but reached the endzone twice on his biggest stage.
"We practiced some of that. It was our last game, so we were just trying to pull out all the stops," he said. "It was great going out like that my last game."
As well as Loyola played in stretches, the Dons' youth — with a combined 17 freshmen and sophomores on the roster — played a critical role. The team drew nine penalties, mostly false starts on the offense, and struggled to consistently match up with the veteran Cardinals.
"We made a lot of mistakes, and we're really inexperienced," Zehyoue said. "It comes back and hurts you in those moments. It's frustrating, but, God, I love every one of those kids. They're a joy to coach, but sometimes you live with the mistakes of a really young person."
The victory meant that Calvert Hall's 29 seniors finished their high school careers without enduring a loss to the Dons. It's a feat the Cardinals have accomplished twice since 2009, after previously not pulling it off since the early 1980s.
"When you come to Calvert Hall, you never want to lose the Turkey Bowl," Mike Campbell said. "It means a lot to send off these seniors and know that they didn't lose one."
Calvert Hall 14 0 7 6 — 27
Loyola 0 6 0 0 — 6
CH — Cooper 88 pass from M. Campbell (Cottone kick)
CH — C. Campbell 7 run (Cottone kick)
L — Boozer 12 pass from from Moore (kick blocked)
CH — Obayanju 28 run (Cottone kick)
CH — C. Campbell 6 run (run failed)