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The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football semifinal between McDonogh and visiting Archbishop Spalding was filled with swings of momentum. But the last swing went McDonogh’s way.

Preston Howard threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Jacobs and then tossed him a 2-point conversion pass with 35.2 seconds left to give No. 2 McDonogh a come-from-behind 29-23 victory on Friday night.

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McDonogh (11-0) advanced to the MIAA A Conference championship game next Saturday. The Eagles will play the winner of Saturday’s other semifinal between No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph and Calvert Hall in the title game at Spalding in a week.

Spalding (5-6) appeared in command, holding a 23-19 lead with just over two minutes left and forcing McDonogh to punt. But Harrison Beattie’s boot rolled to the 2-yard line, and the Cavaliers later appeared to be penalized for holding in the end zone — three flags were thrown — for a safety.

That cut the margin to 23-21 with 96 seconds to go, and McDonogh gained possession after a free kick at its own 45. That’s when the Howard-Jacobs connection started to spark the Eagles offense.

Howard found Jacobs for 17 yards and then hit Giovanni Procaccini for 18 to give McDonogh the ball at the Spalding 20. The sophomore quarterback threw a fade into the left corner for Jacobs for the touchdown — and then did the same thing for a 2-point conversion and a 29-23 lead.

“I just told everyone we still have got time,” Howard said about the final drive. “It was either get in field-goal range or score [a touchdown].”

The Eagles offense, which had problems moving consistently throughout the game, finally came through at the right time. McDonogh drove 55 yards in six plays for the winning touchdown.

Jacobs came through once again when Spalding got the ball back, picking off quarterback Austin Tutas and returning the ball to the Cavaliers’ 10 to seal the victory.

“He’s just a beast,” Howard said of Jacobs.

McDonogh struggled on offense, but still held a 19-0 halftime lead thanks to two fumble returns for touchdowns. At Ntantang stripped a Spalding receiver and ran back the fumble for a 48-yard touchdown with 3:25 left in the first half.

The Eagles scored on a fumble return on the ensuing kickoff. Stefan Egbe picked up a ball that had been knocked backwards and ran it 5 yards for a touchdown and a 12-0 lead. McDonogh scored on its next possessions when Howard threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Roberts.

That gave the Eagles a 19-0 halftime lead and apparent control before Spalding rallied in the second half.

Tutas threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Molayo Irefin late in the third quarter to start the 23-point rally. After a Spalding interception, Tutas threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Shamar Smith on the final play of the third quarter, which cut the McDonogh lead to 19-14.

Tutas came through again on the next drive, throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Irefin that gave the Cavaliers a 20-19 lead with 9:10 left. Ethan McCormick added a 22-yard field goal on Spalding’s next possession to make it 23-19 before McDonogh turned everything around.

“At the end of the day, our guys stepped up,” McDonogh coach Hakeem Sule said.

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AS; 0; 0; 14; 9 — 23

M; 0; 19; 0; 10 — 29

M—Ntantang 48 fumble return (kick failed)

M—Egbe 5 fumble return (pass failed)

M—J. Roberts 17 pass from Howard (Beattie kick)

AS—Irefin 23 pass from Tutas (McCormick kick)

AS—S. Smith 22 pass from Tutas (McCormick kick)

AS—Irefin 8 pass from Tutas (pass failed)

AS—McCormick 22 FG

M—Safety, Spalding holding in end zone

M—Jacobs 20 pass from Howard (Jacobs pass from Howard)

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