Boys' Latin QB Brenden Crouse, LB Justus Brown talk about the 14-7 win over Loyola Blakefield. (Katherine Dunn/Baltimore Sun video)
Since Ritchie Schell took over as Boys' Latin football coach, he always wanted to beat a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference team.
Seventeen years later, Schell has a check in that box.
The Lakers have been regular contenders in the B Conference, but they could never get past an A Conference team until Brenden Crouse threw two touchdown passes, and Gio Biggers and Kevin Davis forced turnovers late in the game to beat Loyola Blakefield, 14-7, Friday afternoon in the season opener for both teams.
"I think it means a lot," Boys' Latin senior linebacker Justus Brown said. "Coming off a tough loss last year [to St. Vincent Pallotti] in the championship, coming out and beating an A Conference team shows that we bounce back well and we have the key components this year to get it done. It also means a lot to our coach, Coach Schell. He went to Loyola, is a graduate there and to come out and beat Loyola Week 1 means a lot to him, I know."
For Schell and the Lakers, who lost to the Dons, 23-3, last season, the game sets up a promising season.
"It makes me feel really good for the kids," Schell said, "It gives the kids a little extra juice, I think."
The Lakers didn't waste any time getting on the scoreboard. They held Loyola to three-and-out on the first drive of the game and then went 55 yards on six plays as Crouse hit Seth Nance with a 17-yard touchdown pass with 6:24 left in the first quarter.
Crouse, a nimble scrambler, passed for 46 yards on the drive and ran for 17. Committed to play lacrosse at Air Force, Crouse ran around for about 15 seconds on second-and-10 before hitting Connor Walsh with a 21-yard pass to set up the scoring play.
"I think the biggest play for us our whole first drive was just coming down and scoring right away on like a 20-yard pass to Seth for a touchdown," Crouse said, "but honestly the biggest play was probably the 15-yard touchdown by Jamie Rice to get us up 14 on fade and a screen. That got us to 14 and really gave the momentum back to us to move the ball and finish."
The Dons, under new coach Anthony Zehyoue, struggled to be consistent on offense. They often made a big play and then negated it with a poor one or a jump offsides. They finally got on the board in the third quarter when first-year senior quarterback Matt Bell connected with freshman Jordan Moore on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 9:55 left in the game.
The Lakers took control right back, however, starting with about a 35-yard kickoff return from senior Devon Brewer that set them up at their own 45-yard line. Crouse hit Nance with a 14-yard pass to open the drive before Brewer and Josh Pugh combined to run for 21 yards. Crouse then hit Rice for the winning touchdown and Sam Grace kicked his second extra point of the game.
The Dons had two more drives in the final seven minutes of the game, but turned the ball over on both — the only two turnovers of the game.
Junior safety Biggers picked off a pass by Bell on the Dons' next drive. On their final drive, junior linebacker Davis stripped the ball from Bell and senior defensive end Patrick McDermott recovered.
Justus, who blocked a 33-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter, said the game ended on an appropriate note, considering how well the Lakers defense played.
"I think it was just about trusting our teammates because we run a new defense this year where everyone has to their job," Justus said. "We preached all week to tackle the dive because we knew we had an option offense coming in, so it was really key on everyone being responsible for what they have to do and making sure everyone does their job."
While the Lakers have a veteran group, the Dons had a lot of turnover and had a lot to learn under a new coaching staff, which contributed to the loss. There were, however, a lot of positive moments and Zehyoue said he was pleased with his new quarterback, also a slippery scrambler who seemed unfazed by any mistakes.
The inconsistency is "kind of where we've been living these last two weeks," Zehyoue said. "It's something we're fighting as a team to overcome, but here's the thing: I work with teenagers and I have confidence in them. I try to remember the offense is new, over three-quarters of our coaching staff is new. We're trying to jell. We'll figure it out."
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