St. Frances quarterback Nate Roberts dealt with a furious pass rush from top-ranked McDonogh for most of the game, often having to scramble out of the pocket to avoid a gang of defensemen.
The freshman quarterback, however, maintained his composure and came up with the biggest play of the Panthers' season: Roberts found Devin Phelps for a 21-yard touchdown with 2:49 left in the game and then Malik Christian converted a two-point attempt to give No. 7 St. Frances an 8-3 victory.
It was McDonogh's first loss to an Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference opponent since 2012.
"It's huge ... I don't even know how to explain it," St. Frances coach Messay Hailemariam said. "Our goal is always to work our tails off and enjoy it. This was just a very strong win. It's tremendous testimony to the coaches I have on staff and the countless hours my kids have put in to get ready for these types of games."
The teams traded possessions throughout the first quarter. The Eagles (5-3 overall, 3-1, MIAA) got down to the Panthers' 35 in the final minute but a sack and fumble recovery by Keyon Smith ended the drive. St. Frances kept the ball inside McDonogh's territory for much of the half, but the Eagles defense kept the Panthers contained.
St. Frances (4-4 overall, 3-1, MIAA) was equally tenacious on defense with defensive tackle Mike Berry III delivering several bone-crushing hits and getting a key sack when McDonogh got down to the Panthers 35 with two minutes left in the half.
The Eagles' Connor Young then recoverered a fumble and took over on the Panthers' 23-yard line with 1:30 remaining. That eventually set up a 33-yard field goal by Mike Shinsky and McDonogh took a 3-0 lead into the break
St. Frances defensive end Rahshaun Smith intercepted Jansen Durham early in the third quarter togive the Panthers the ball on their own 36. But once again, the Eagles forced another three-and-out. McDonogh defensive lineman PJ Mustipher and defensive end Michael Cornwell then picked up back-to-back sacks on St. Frances' next possession to maintain the shutout heading into the fourth quarter.
However, the Panthers would finally break through as the final minutes ticked down. A pair of Eagles penalties helped move the ball to midfield. From there, a couple of strong runs by Maurice Williams continued to move the ball.
And then Roberts made the pivotal play when he found Phelps in the middle of the field for the go-ahead touchdown. Smith came up with an interception with 1:47 left to seal the win.