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McDonogh boys stay in pursuit of perfect season with MIAA semifinal win over Calvert Hall

When considering the two comfortable wins the McDonogh boys soccer team had over Calvert Hall during the regular season, it seemed the No. 1 Eagles would have an easy path to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game when they scored an early goal in Thursday's semifinal.

As it turned out, getting there was anything but easy.

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The defending league champions had to work hard for all 80 minutes against the No. 10 Cardinals and it wasn't until Nicolas Brown's insurance goal in the final minute that they were able to seal a 2-0 home win that moved them one game from the program's first perfect season.

McDonogh, now 19-0, will try to add to the program's seven league crowns on Sunday when it meets the winner of Friday's game between No. 4 Archbishop Curley and No. 2 Loyola Blakefield winner. Game time on Sunday is set for 5:30 p.m. at Stevenson University in Owings Mills.

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"We hadn't discussed [completing a perfect season] until a couple days ago," first-year coach Brandon Quaranta said. "We're very proud of this program, there's a lot of history and [former coach] Steve Nichols did some unbelievable things to put this program on the map nationally. There's not too many things the program hasn't done, and that's one of them.

"Our priority is always to get the No. 1 seed, try to make the championship game and after that is trying to win the championship. But we're cognizant that there is something special out there that we can accomplish. It's certainly not going to be easy whether we play Loyola or Curley — they're both quality teams that we have respect for."

During the regular season, the Eagles dominated the Cardinals in two 5-0 wins and when senior Scat Macdonald put away an easy rebound seven minutes into play on Thursday, another rout could have followed.

But the Calvert Hall stayed with their revised game plan, allowing the Eagles to play the ball freely in the back, commit more players to the middle and then try to score by countering. The visitors had two quality chances to tie the game in the second half, but couldn't finish. Midway through, Jeff Schaefer sent a free kick from midfield right in front that Matt Breidenstein headed just wide.

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With 4:50 left, Schaefer sent another ball in that McDonogh goalie Robby Black (3 saves) alertly punched away.

With the Cardinals sending everybody forward for one final surge, including goalie Sam Loeffler, Brown was able to dribble in the Eagles second goal with 42 seconds left.

Macdonald and the rest of the Eagles now have Sunday in sight.

"This is what we've been working for all season," said Macdonald, a senior defender. "This is why we all came in early going to captains' practices in June — for this moment, so we can't wait. No matter who we play — Loyola or Curley — we know it's going to be a great game."

After a fast start and then a rocky middle part of the season, Calvert Hall came into Thursday's game with six straight wins and gave the Eagles all they could handle.

"We created some chances. It wasn't a game where we just sat back and defended for 80 minutes," Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand said. "We were inches away off of one set piece and we were very proud of the effort."

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