No. 3 McDonogh versus No. 2 Mount Saint Joseph was billed as a heavyweight matchup between two Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association football powers. Both defenses lived up to the hype Saturday, with the Eagles reigning victorious, 14-7.
The game came down to the wire. After McDonogh’s Harrison Beattie missed a field-goal attempt, Mount Saint Joseph had one last chance to drive the ball down the field. Dont’e Thornton Jr. caught a pass deep in McDonogh territory, but just a few plays later, Eagles cornerback Dante Trader Jr. picked off quarterback Billy Atkins to seal the win with 7 seconds left.
“All week for Dante [Trader Jr.], we said ‘Hey, you’ve got to keep an eye out on Thornton,’ ” McDonogh coach Hakeem Sule said. “Obviously, he’s their big playmaker. So, we were able to double-team him. Thornton, being a hell of a player, still got a great catch there at the end.
“That put some pressure on us, but Dante is a playmaker and kept his head in the game. He was able to make up for it a couple of plays later with the big interception down the stretch.”
Each team made key defensive stops. Curtis Jacobs had two sacks and Dani Dennis-Sutton had one for McDonogh (8-0, 2-0 MIAA A Conference). Mount Saint Joseph got a sack from Marlowe Wax Jr. and interceptions by defensive back Jabari Echols in the first quarter and defensive end Stephen Schulze in the fourth quarter.
The game was scoreless at the half. After receiving the second-half kickoff, McDonogh marched down the field for a 14-play drive that was capped by a rushing touchdown by Jacobs with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
At that point, Jacobs had played outside linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver, tight end and running back. For Jacobs, it speaks to the trust that he has with Sule.
“We have a really good relationship,” Jacobs said. “He listens to me, I listen to him. We work together on it. I just told him wherever he needs me to play, I just go play it. I’m not really big on status or doing any of that, I just want to win. I just told him at the beginning of the season, ‘Wherever you need me to play, I got it.’ ”
In the fourth quarter, Mount Saint Joseph mounted a comeback attempt with Schulze’s interception in McDonogh territory. Wax capped off the drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at 7 with 7:31 left.
Unfortunately for the Gaels, the Eagles soared ahead for good on a touchdown pass from Preston Howard to Trader with just 2:43 left in the game.
“We had a shot at the end there,” Mount Saint Joseph coach Rich Holzer said. “We made a nice play, but we just couldn’t finish the drive, that’s all. McDonogh is a good team, we just made too many mistakes today.”
McDonogh has completely turned itself around after finishing last season with a 3-6 record. The Eagles will take on Archbishop Spalding on Friday at 7 p.m. on Senior Night to continue their turnaround season.
“The crazy thing is, since last year, we knew [that] this was going to be the result,” Jacobs said. “We just kept trying to speak it into existence, play it into existence and we’re just trying to keep rolling with it. We want to take this to a championship, and we’re trying to do something special.”
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Mount Saint Joseph (6-2, 2-1 MIAA) will take on Baltimore County’s Class 3A leader Franklin (6-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m.