Boys’ Latin gets past Loyola in football season opener; Crouse throws two TD’s
by Nelson Coffin
Showing both poise and polish, Boys’ Latin School quarterback Brendan Crouse made a smart decision with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ season-opening football game against Loyola Blakefield at J. Duncan Smith Field in Roland Park on Friday afternoon.
Facing a 1st-and-10 at the Dons’ 15-yard line with the score deadlocked, 7-7, the senior signal caller surveyed the defense and figured out that changing the planned play — a run — gave his team the best chance to retake the lead.
“They had a lot of guys over to the right (where the play was designed to go) and (Loyola senior lineman) Evan Boozer — he’s a great player — was over there, too,” Crouse said. “We tried to stay away from Boozer, and they were in a cover three (defense), so I checked out of the play and called a fade to the corner. James Rice made a great catch.”
Rice, a senior wideout, grabbed the back-shoulder pass with both hands and then one-handed the ball across the goal line, prompting the officials to give the touchdown signal.
Junior kicker Sam Grace’s conversion kick followed, and the BL defense did the rest in the Lakers’ 14-7 victory that gave Coach Ritchie Schell his first win over a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference team in his 17-year tenure.
BL, a member of the MIAA B Conference, had not beaten an A Conference rival since edging Calvert Hall, 3-0, in 1994.
The Lakers (1-0 overall) were nearly shut out in last year’s opener at Loyola, managing only a 19-yard field goal by Grace in a 23-3 setback.
Crouse and company were held in check by Boozer and his buddies that day, holding the Lakers to a total of 65 rushing yards.
This time around, Crouse racked up 43 yards on the ground himself while senior running back Devon Brewer added 83 more on just nine carries.
Moreover, Crouse was 8-for-12 through the air for 73 yards and two TDs.
It was a good day for him, especially considering all of what he termed as “crap” he has had to hear from his father, Pat, a Loyola alumnus and classmate of Schell’s at the Towson school, about losing to the Dons.
The younger Crouse said he was much better prepared for this year’s battle.
“I had a lot of nerves in last year’s game,” Crouse said. “But this year everything is slowing down for me.”
He completed four passes in the Lakers’ first scoring drive, a seven-play sequence capped by a 17-yard strike from Crouse to junior wideout Seth Nance that gave BL a 7-0 advantage with less than seven minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
Loyola (0-1) threatened in the second period, moving from its own 34 to the hosts’ 16-yard line only to have freshman Luke Wayson’s 33-yard field-goal attempt blocked.
After that, both defense stiffened and the score remained the same until Loyola knotted the score on a seven-play, 49-yard push early in the fourth quarter directed by senior quarterback Matthew Bell in his first start over center.
Showing flashes of promise combined with a lack of experience at the position, the former wideout scrambled for 31 yards to put the Dons within striking distance at the BL 13.
Bell then took an ill-advised sack by senior linebacker Lamaon Cooper back to the 22, but brilliantly overcame that mistake on the next play by lofting a perfect spiral to freshman wideout Jordan Moore in the corner of the end zone for the equalizing TD.
His final pass of the day, with three minutes, seventeen seconds left in regulation, was picked off by Laker junior free safety Gio Biggers.
On the game’s last play, Bell was sacked by junior linebacker Kevin Davis and fumbled the ball. It was recovered by senior defensive end Patrick McDermott as the final second ticked off the clock.
“Loyola is young, and they’re going to get better,” Schell said. “But we really have a lot of speed this year. And we played really hard today.”
Loyola coach Anthony Zehyoue, making his debut after taking over for Brant Hall, said that he saw some positives in the loss.
“We have to give all the credit to BL,” he said. “They played really well. Like iI told the kids, it stinks to lose, but it’s not the end of the world.”
He praised Bell for holding his own in his first start.
“He made a couple of mistakes, but I’m not worried about that,” the coach said. “It was his first start in a new position, and those things are going to happen. But we’re going to learn from our mistakes. Sometimes that’s how you learn the best — from failure.”