No. 10 Loyola stops Howard to stay unbeaten; Moore throws 4 TDs (VIDEO HERE!)

by Gary Adornato

In its second season playing an independent schedule, the Loyola Blakefield football team has been toiling under the radar. But, with playmakers on both sides of the ball and now off to a 4-0 start after another impressive win on Friday, the 10th-ranked Dons have started to find the spotlight.

The latest victory, a 40-28 home win over No. 12 Howard High, was more of the same for Loyola junior quarterback Jordan Moore, one of the premier dual-threat players in the area.

Loyola quarterback Jordan Moore (right) threw four touchdown passes in his team’s 40-28 win over Howard. Three went to Keegan Pross (left) and one went to Kaire Umoja (center). Umoja also rushed for a score.

Moore used his big arm and his elusiveness in the pocket to make several big throws, tossing for four touchdowns and 277 yards through the air. He also rushed for a deceivingly low 44 yards, with his overall total curtailed by a handful of sacks.

His favorite target by far is senior wide out Keegan Pross, who caught 10 balls for 168 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Kaire Umoja also provided several big plays for the Dons, rushing 11 times for 92 yards and a touchdown and also scoring on an 18-yard touchdown pass.

The Dons found good fortune right off the bat as they won the coin toss and deferred. Howard, mistakenly, elected to kick, giving the Dons the kickoff to start each half. Both of those drives resulted in Loyola touchdowns.

On the game’s first possession, Loyola went 68 yards on nine plays, almost exclusively through the air. Moore was 5-for-6 for 54 yards including an 18-yard swing pass to Umoja which went for the game’s first score.

After forcing Howard into a three-and-out on its first drive, the Dons started their second drive at their own 37 and they moved to the Howard 13 on runs of 24 and 26 yards by sophomore Micah Robinson, who had eight carries for 57 yards. Moore then hit Pross for a 13-yard score to put the Dons on top, 14-0, with six minutes, 34 seconds to play in the opening quarter.

Moore made an impression Howard coach Ross Hannon.

“That’s a good football team and Jordan Moore is probably the best dual-threat player we’re going to see,” said Hannon. “You have to tip your hat to Jordan Moore. He plays as fast, as he needs to play.”

The Lions, however, fought back all afternoon and their first big play came on the ensuing kickoff when junior Chris Eley fielded the kick at his own three, burst through a seam, sprinted to the far sideline and outran the Dons’ coverage team for a 97-yard touchdown return. The play cut Loyola’s lead to 14-7.

Loyola appeared to have an immediate answer, as Moore scored on a 33-yard scamper, but the play was negated by a holding call and the Dons eventually turned the ball over on downs.

The score remained 14-7 into the second quarter, when Howard quarterback Connor Hawkins sparked a 62-yard scoring drive. Hawkins went 4-fo4 for 68 yards on the march, completing it with a 30-yard TD strike to Eley, tying the game at 14. The throw was deflected off the hands of another Lion, near the five yard line, but Eley, with his toes nestled in the right front corner of the end zone, snagged while lunging beyond the sideline.

The tie did not last long.

On Loyola’s next possession, Umoja broke off a 20-yard run and Moore hit Pross for a 25-yard gain. That setup a 30-yard TD run by Umoja, who broke through the line, hurdled a tackle in the secondary and sprinted to the end zone, extending Loyola’s lead to 21-14. From there the team’s traded punts, with Loyola’s Connor Gill pinning the Lions on their own one. That led to a sack of Hawkins in the end zone, by Loyola’s Joshua Buck, for a safety, sending the Dons to halftime with a 23-14 lead.

In the third quarter Loyola scored 10 points, as Poss gathered in a beautiful deep ball from Moore for a 47-yard touchdown and Gill booted a 36-yard field goal. Loyola’s lead grew to 40-14 with the third TD connection between Moore and Poss, a 30-yard score, early in the fourth quarter.

Pross explained the way the Dons attacked the Howard defense.

“We ran a bunch of hitches, they came up on me and then we audible that. When we see the free safety walk out, that’s our thing and we got that down,” said Pross.

Pross also explained the 47-yard TD grab. “I hit him with a little stutter, beat him going to the end zone with a perfect ball from my man Jordan.”

Howard closed strong, scoring on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hawkins to Alex Rebazza and, with 3-seconds left, a 4-yard run by Rebazza.

Hannon was pleased with the way his team battled and feels this game will help his team toward its ultimate goal.

“I feel really good with what we have athletically,” said Hannon. “We have a lot of young kids and we’re trying to win the Howard County championship. We’re gearing towards another big week, this week, another non-conference game with Sherwood. It’s our homecoming and we want to get back on track this week.”

Moore feels his game is a work in progress.

“Last year I was not very comfortable playing quarterback,” said Moore. “This year I am getting more comfortable. When I see the pocket collapsing, it’s almost instinctive to try to make a play happen, but I couldn’t do any of this without my teammates.

“First and foremost I have to give props to my line. They work so hard in practice. It was a great team win. We played very well. We came out and executed, got a good win and we’re now 4-0.”

Loyola coach Anthony Zehyoue feels his team can improve from this contest as well.

“We still feel like we have a lot of room to improve,” said Zehyoue. “That’s a big positive for this group because we scored 40 and we still felt like we left a lot of points out there.”

Coach Zehyoue also commented on what he sees as the most important ingredient to his team’s success.

“We have three non-negotiables in our program. Effort is number one and that’s the main thing we push every week and our effort was fantastic.”

Next week, Loyola will put its undefeated record on the line against Wyomissing (PA), while Howard (1-2) will host Sherwood for Homecoming.

NO. 10 LOYOLA 40, NO. 12 HOWARD 28
HOW 7 7 0 14 — 28
LOY 14 9 10 7 — 40

LOY – Kaire Umoja 18 pass from Jordan Moore (Connor Gill kick)
LOY – Keegan Pross 13 pass from Moore (Gill kick)
HOW – Curtis Eley 97 kickoff return (Camren Kovach kick)

HOW – Eley 19 pass from Connor Hawkins (Kovach kick)
LOY – Umoja 30 run (Gill kick)
LOY – Safety – Joshua Buck tackled Hawkins in end zone

LOY – Pross 47 pass from Moore (Gill kick)
LOY – Gill 36 FG

LOY – Pross 30 pass from Moore (Gill kick)
HOW – Alex Rebazza 11 pass from Hawkins (Kovach kick)
HOW – Rebazza 4 run (Kovach kick)