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Nichols scores twice to lead No. 4 McDonogh to 3-1 soccer win over No. 9 Calvert Hall

From left, McDonogh Eagles' Vincent Petrera, Joel Brown (behind), and Braden Peacock (front right) celebrate a goal by Richie Nichols (below right) against the Calvert Hall Cardinals during the first half of a key matchup Fri., Oct. 4, 2019.
From left, McDonogh Eagles' Vincent Petrera, Joel Brown (behind), and Braden Peacock (front right) celebrate a goal by Richie Nichols (below right) against the Calvert Hall Cardinals during the first half of a key matchup Fri., Oct. 4, 2019. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

McDonogh All-Metro junior midfielder Richie Nichols isn’t up to full speed just yet, hampered by injuries that have left him off the field for most of the season.

But he’s back now, getting a little better every day and still able to be the difference maker for the No. 4 Eagles.

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In Friday’s showdown against Calvert Hall, he scored two goals — the opening goal and an insurance goal — that helped send McDonogh to a 3-1 home win over the No. 9 Cardinals in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play.

McDonogh (8-3-1, 6-2 MIAA) won its fifth straight.

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After missing the first eight games with a hamstring injury and then tweaking an ankle in his second game back last week, Nichols estimates himself at about 90%. Friday, it was an impressive 90%.

“I’m not all the way back yet, but it feels awesome to be out there,” he said.

“It’s always awesome playing with my teammates. Training hard in practice is real fun and then coming out here – I can’t describe it.”

After the visiting Cardinals (5-3-1, 4-3-1 MIAA) just missed on two early chances, Nichols gave the home team the lead in the seventh minute with some opportunistic play in the penalty area. Tyler Tucker sent a ball to the middle that Nichols got to, nudged ahead past a defender and then toe-poked in while falling to the ground.

Calvert Hall Cardinals midfielder Hayden Lim hits McDonogh Eagles' Jackson Ruckman as they play the ball during the first half of a key matchup Fri., Oct. 4, 2019.
Calvert Hall Cardinals midfielder Hayden Lim hits McDonogh Eagles' Jackson Ruckman as they play the ball during the first half of a key matchup Fri., Oct. 4, 2019. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

After Joel Brown made it 2-0 two minutes into the second half — putting a way a rebound off a shot from Vincent Petrera — the Cardinals got one back minutes later when Ben Bender converted a penalty kick.

There are only a few players in the area this season that can consistently put a stamp on a game and Nichols is one. With 26 minutes left, he chested an errant clear a few yards outside the penalty area and then took two quick dribbles to his left before finding the top left of the goal from 20 yards with a clean left-footed strike.

“I saw a defender right there and most teams say I always go to my right, so I was like I’m going to try to mix it up. I guess my left is OK,” he said.

The Eagles defended for much of the remaining time, but the Cardinals couldn’t find the net. McDonogh goalie Connor Smith had six saves.

“I just told the team I thought this was the most complete game of the season so far,” McDonogh coach Brandon Quaranta said. “I thought on both sides of the ball, we were super committed and locked in and that’s really the first time that’s happened all season.”

The Cardinals walked off the field frustrated.

They put in a strong 80 minutes, created chances and couldn’t find the timely goals. It’s been a difficult spell coach Rich Zinkand hopes goes away soon.

After falling to Archbishop Spalding, 2-1, last week, the Cardinals needed an overtime goal to get past St. Paul’s, 1-0, on Wednesday.

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The positive spin is that they’re persistently creating opportunities.

“It’s been a little frustrating for us here recently where I thought we’ve played well and created chances, but haven’t been able to put the ball I the back of the net,” Zinkand said.

“We’re trying to stay positive. We work on it in training just getting guys to see the ball hit their foot square and put it in the side of the net somewhere. Yeah, the longer it goes, the tougher it gets, but we’ll turn it around soon.”

Goals: CH – Bender; M - Nichols 2, Brown. Assists: M – Tucker, Petrera. Saves: CH - Levis 4; M - Smith 6. Half: M, 1-0

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