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McDonogh quarterback Preston Howard cuts behind offensive lineman Antonio Tripp, who delivers a key block to Calvert Hall defensive lineman Denaz Jones, creating a gap for Howard to sprint for a touchdown at John McDonogh Stadium on Friday night.
McDonogh quarterback Preston Howard cuts behind offensive lineman Antonio Tripp, who delivers a key block to Calvert Hall defensive lineman Denaz Jones, creating a gap for Howard to sprint for a touchdown at John McDonogh Stadium on Friday night. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Both McDonogh and visiting Calvert Hall had problems moving the ball at times throughout Friday night’s game. But the Eagles did something the Cardinals couldn’t — come up with big plays.

Quarterback Preston Howard ran for a 74-yard touchdown and threw for a 73-yard score to Jamir Roberts. Niles Riding pitched in with a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped No. 7 McDonogh to a 28-8 victory over No. 4 Calvert Hall in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game.

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McDonogh coach Hakeem Sule said the coaches often tell their players the importance of big plays. That’s how the Eagles got 21 of their points and improved to 6-0 (1-0 in the MIAA A).

“We preach the [big plays] always,” Sule said. “Tonight, we were able to capitalize on the big plays.”

Sule said McDonogh thought this would be a defensive battle, and for the most part, that’s how it turned out. The Eagles held a 7-0 lead until scoring on two big plays within a minute late in the third quarter.

McDonogh has turned things around after going 3-6 last year. Sule said they worked hard in the offseason and have played well so far, even scoring an impressive 38-3 victory over Franklin, the defending Class 3A state champions.

McDonogh Eagles defensive back Dante Trader Jr. intercepts a pass intended for Calvert Hall Cardinals wide receiver Jaiheem Henderson at John McDonogh Stadium Fri., Oct. 4, 2019.
McDonogh Eagles defensive back Dante Trader Jr. intercepts a pass intended for Calvert Hall Cardinals wide receiver Jaiheem Henderson at John McDonogh Stadium Fri., Oct. 4, 2019. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)
Calvert Hall Cardinals quarterback Noah Brannock gets drilled in the back while passing, by McDonogh Eagles defensive back Curtis Jacobs at John McDonogh Stadium Fri., Oct. 4, 2019.
Calvert Hall Cardinals quarterback Noah Brannock gets drilled in the back while passing, by McDonogh Eagles defensive back Curtis Jacobs at John McDonogh Stadium Fri., Oct. 4, 2019. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The Eagles never trailed against Calvert Hall, taking an early lead when Howard ran for his touchdown on the team’s second possession. He ran slowly to his left and a couple of blocks helped a huge hole appear, and the sophomore then raced down the left sideline for the 74-yard scoring run. Harrison Beattie’s extra point made it 7-0 with 5:10 left in the first quarter.

“It just opened up, and I took off,” Howard said. “My line’s just great.”

Both teams actually missed on good scoring chances before that. Calvert Hall blocked a Beattie punt on the game’s first series and gained possession at the McDonogh 3-yard line.

The Cardinals couldn’t gain anything, and they were forced to call on Peter Moore for a 23-yard field goal but Curtis Jacobs broke through and blocked it. Two plays later, Howard took off on his long run.

Beattie also punted well, especially in the first half where he blasted kicks of 77 and 51 yards that pushed Calvert Hall (4-2, 0-2) far back. Moore helped the Cardinals with a 72-yard punt early in the third quarter before the Eagles broke it open later in the period.

Howard threw a long pass to Roberts, who outfoxed two Calvert Hall defenders to make the catch before turning and running the final yards into the end zone for the 73-yard touchdown. Beattie’s kick made it 14-0.

Two plays later, Riding picked off a Noah Brannock pass and ran it back for his 46-yard touchdown. That came with 48 seconds left in the period. Calvert Hall then turned the ball over on downs on the next series and gave the Eagles possession at the Cardinals’ 23-yard line. Giovanni Procaccini (95 yards) ran for a 3-yard touchdown that gave McDonogh a 28-0 lead.

The Calvert Hall offense had not scored since the first half of last week’s 20-10 loss against No. 2 Mount Saint Joseph. The Cardinals finally snapped out of their funk when Brannock threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Kaelin Wade with 3.7 seconds remaining. Ray Glass ran for the two-point conversion but it was too little, too late.

C 0 0 0 8- 8

M 7 0 14 7- 28

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M- Howard 74 run (Beattie kick)

M- Roberts 73 pass from Howard (Beattie kick)

M- Riding 46 interception return (Beattie kick)

M- Procaccini 3 run (Beattie kick)

C- K. Wade 11 pass from Brannock (Glass run)

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