No. 2 McDonogh survives Spalding in OT, clinch top seed in MIAA A football (VIDEO HERE!)


Spalding’s Jayon Venerable (7) brings down McDonogh quarterback Preston Howard after a 52-yard run in the 3rd quarter of Friday’s MIAA A Conference match. The 2nd-ranked Eagles remained undefeated with a 25-22 overtime victory over the 5th-ranked Cavaliers at Whittles Field in Anne Arundel County. (photo – Laurie Butts)

by Derek Toney

In a season which everything has seemingly gone right for McDonogh School football team went sideways Friday evening.

Interceptions. Missed extra points. Red zone failures. The second-ranked Eagles’ perfect season was in limbo against a relentless Archbishop Spalding squad.

Shaken, but far from deterred, McDonogh found a way. The Eagles defeated the fifth-ranked Cavaliers, 25-22, in overtime at Whittles Field in Severn.

Sophomore quarterback Preston Howard’s 1-yard run was the clincher for the Eagles (9-0 overall, 3-0 MIAA A), who secured the No. 1 seed for next month’s MIAA A Conference playoffs. Penn State University commit Curtis Jacobs hauled in two scoring passes for the Owings Mills school.

Trailing at halftime for the first time this season, McDonogh coach Hakeem Sule challenged his squad.

“How are we going to respond?,” Sule said. “If you guys want to be champions, champions respond when they’re down, when things aren’t going their way. Tonight was another resilient effort on our end.”

“Every single game we have to come out as hard as we can even in those conditions,” said McDonogh senior defensive end Dom Solis. “Spalding’s atmosphere is really good and they had the advantage. We had to push through the losses and win every battle. We won the war in the end.”

The Eagles regained the lead early in the 4th as Jacobs came down with Howard’s pass from 20 yards, but the extra-point attempt failed. Senior kicker Harrison Beattie hit a 30-yard field goal after sophomore Niles Riding’s interception, extending the lead to 19-12 with 7:05 left in regulation.

McDonogh junior defensive back Jamir Roberts intercepted Spalding junior quarterback Austin Tutas inside the Cavaliers’ 30-yard line on the ensuing possession. Beattie, one of the area’s best kickers, missed a 38-yard attempt with 4:06 remaining.

The Eagles’ defense forced a Spalding punt, but using their timeouts, the Cavaliers (5-4, 1-2 MIAA A) regained possession with 3:10 to play. Spalding went 80 yards in 11 plays, capped by Tutas’ 28-yard throw to Molayo Irefin with 79 seconds left in regulation.

The Cavaliers got the ball back with a little over a minute to play after Zakee Wheatley intercepted Howard. They got to McDonogh’s 40 before Tutas’ pass was intercepted junior Dante Trader, who ran out the remaining time with his return.

Spalding got the ball first in overtime and produced two incomplete passes and a run for no gain. Ethan McCormick split the uprights from 23 yards, giving the Cavaliers a 22-19 advantage.

After a 9-yard run from Giovanni Procaccini, who went out of bounds before touching the pylon with the ball, Howard went behind his line over the goal line, giving McDonogh its 10th straight victory dating back to last season.

Howard, who threw 4 interceptions Friday, said the Eagles stayed resolute.

“Nothing was going right for us. Somehow we found a way to pull it out,” said Howard, 6-foot-5. “My defense steps up so much for me, my o-line (offensive) stepped up late. It’s a brotherhood.”

McDonogh players made a commitment in the offseason after going 3-6 last season. The Eagles faced adversity arguably for the first time this season, getting a score late in regulation to win at Mount St. Joseph last weekend.

In front of a spirited Senior Night audience in Severn, McDonogh led 10-3 in the first after Howard hit Jacobs from 18 yards. On the Eagles’ next possession, Howard was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone for a Spalding safety.

The Cavaliers got the ball back and went 65 yards in 5 plays with Bryson Carter running under a Tutas in the corner of the end zone for a 12-10 advantage with 10:11 remaining in the opening half.

Spalding maintained it with Zakee Wheatley intercepting Howard and Will Merton’s block of Beattie’s field goal attempt with 35 seconds left in the first half. Courtesy of a fumble, McDonogh regained the lead on Jacobs’ TD reception, but the Cavaliers’ defense kept the Eagles off the scoreboard the remainder of regulation.

“They did everything we asked them to do and was able to get it tied,” said Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt, whose team dropped its third straight. “McDonogh is the best and playing good football football, but we’re right there.”

Despite their losing two MIAA A matches, the Cavaliers are still in play for the No. 2 playoff seed and a home semifinal match. Spalding will need to beat No. 3 Mount St. Joseph next weekend in Irvington.

McDonogh will try to wrap up a first perfect regular season since its 11-0 MIAA A title run in 2013 next weekend against rival Gilman School.

Gilman leads the all-time series, 61-37-5.

“I don’t think we’re going lose any focus,” said Sule. “It’s pride week, spirit week, rivalry week so I know our guys will put forth their best effort. We’ve been underdogs in those games before and come away with upsets. We take the records away when we play Gilman.”

No. 2 McDonogh School 25, No. 5 Archbishop Spalding 22

McDonogh 10 0 0 9 6 – 25

Spalding 3 9 0 7 3 – 22

First quarter

Spalding – Ethan McCormick 38 field goal

McDonogh – Harrison Beattie 27 field goal

McDonogh – Curtis Jacobs 18 pass from Preston Howard (Beattie kick)

Second quarter

Spalding – Safety (Howard called for intentional grounding in end zone)

Spalding – Bryson Carter 17 pass from Austin Tutas (Corey Butts kick)

Fourth quarter

McDonogh – Jacobs 20 pass from Howard (kick failed)

McDonogh – Beattie 30 field goal

Spalding – Molayo Irefin 28 pass from Tutas (Butts kick)

Overtime

Spalding – McCormick 27 field goal

McDonogh – Howard 1 run