As one of the top forwards in the country, McDonogh soccer star Jacob Murrell doesn’t need a lot of time or space to change a game.
More proof of that came Monday with the No. 2 Eagles hosting upstart No. 9 John Carroll in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play.
In a span of five minutes midway through the first half, the senior forward scored goals from both sides of the field — precisely finding the opposite post on both shots — and then threaded a nifty through ball to set up teammate Usman Adegbenro for another goal.
McDonogh quickly had hold of the game with a four-goal advantage and Murrell would add another goal in the second half for his third straight hat trick as the Eagles claimed a convincing 6-0 win over the Patriots.
McDonogh improves to 6-1 on the season with a 5-1 mark in league play for 15 points. The Eagles have now won five straight games and outscored their past three opponents by a 14-0 margin.
With Murrell one of only two returning starters from the 2019 team — when the Eagles last played — McDonogh coach Brandon Quaranta has long said his senior captain will be the one to set the tone for the season. Murrell now has 13 goals and five assists.
“Special players carry your team. Special players make the big plays in the moment you need them. He’s capable at any level of having a five or 10-minute stretch where he is clearly the best player on the field and absolutely flips the game over, changes the momentum and he did that for us today,” Quaranta said. “Right now, he’s on fire. He’s leading us and, more importantly than the goals he’s scoring, he’s a fantastic person and a great leader and he sets our tone character-wise as well.”
The Eagles had much more energy from the start and the Patriots (3-2-1) couldn’t keep up. Ethan Glaser scored the first of his two goals in the 10th minute when, left unmarked in close on the left side, buried a chance from 12 yards following a deflected shot.
Soon after, Murrell took over in sensational fashion. Collecting a ball at midfield, he raced down the left side and then turned around his defender before finding the lower right corner from 14 yards to make it 2-0 with 20:42 to play. Less than two minutes later, Aidan Ellis served him a short pass forward that he volleyed out of the air for his second goal coming from 14 yards on the right side. His field sense was apparent in his next big play when he sent in a through ball to Adegbenro.
Just like that, the Eagles were on their way with a 4-0 advantage.
“Obviously, we got on a roll to start the first half — I was excited with the way we performed,” Murrell said. “We’ve put together like three now in a row, really complete performances against Mount Saint Joseph, C. Milton Wright — good teams — and now a John Carroll team that’s young, but they’re hungry and they’ve gotten good results. So, we’re excited to see out the result the way we did — 6-0, really convincing and we were able to get a lot more guys in to gain more experience, which is great for the program.”
Quaranta has been pleased with what he’s seen from his Eagles in the past week as they continue to build up toward a playoff run.
“It’s still very early in the season and we have a lot to improve on, but it’s night and day these last seven days as opposed to the couple weeks before,” he said. “I’m happy with their effort, I’m happy with their attention to detail in training. We’ve been training a new system a little more and they’re starting to understand it. It plays to our strengths and you saw that today — when it is played right, we have the ability to score the ball on anybody in the league.”
The Patriots are a young team with plenty of promise, but still dealing with growing pains like the one experienced on Monday.
“We didn’t do ourselves any favors today with some of those early chances we allowed them to play through. We didn’t stay connected enough at all from front to back, which I think opened up a lot of space in behind for [Murrell] to work with, and any time you give him 30 yards of space to move into, he’s going to do that to you,” said John Carroll coach Jim Fendryk.
“It’s tough looking at the performance now and what we saw in real time. There was bits and pieces, but from the start we just didn’t look up for it and that showed. Any time you play a team like this, that has that quality of the three up front — guys that are fast, guys that can finish — if your energy isn’t [high], they’re going to be able to do that to you.”
Fedryk added there was no time for his Patriots to hang their heads with two more league games left this week. The Patriots host Mount Saint Joseph on Wednesday and then Archbishop Spalding on Friday. McDonogh will try to keep rolling on Wednesday when it hosts Loyola Blakefield.
Goals: M — Murrell 3, Glaser 2, Adegbenro.
Assists: M — Murrell, Ellis.
Saves: JC — Mezzadra 5, Dilorio 1; M – Anderson 3.
Half: 4-0, McDonogh