Sprinting down the sideline in single coverage with just over a minute left in Thursday’s 93rd Turkey Bowl, Calvert Hall senior Logan Kurek knew this was the chance he had dreamed about.
Moments later, the receiver turned that dream into one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the storied rivalry, hauling in Colar Kuhns’ deep ball and outrunning his defender for an 83-yard touchdown that gave the No. 4 Cardinals a 21-14 win over Loyola before an announced 9,298 at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I just couldn’t have asked for a better ball. It was perfect,” Kurek said. “I could not have thought of a sweeter way to end this.”
Five days after losing their chance at a conference title, the Cardinals gained a measure of redemption on their biggest stage.
“To have this opportunity to come out in a rivalry game, it matters a great deal to our community,” Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said. “I just think it’s huge. They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”
Calvert Hall (9-3) now has won four straight in the series — the longest winning streak against its arch-rival since winning seven in a row ending in 1984 — though Loyola (5-6) still leads 48-37-8 all time.
This one, at times, seemed up for grabs. Though entering the game as the heavy favorite, Calvert Hall managed just 167 yards of total offense prior to the late touchdown.
In fact, led by running back Alex Hunt (15 carries for 102 yards) and quarterback Jake Clise (15-for-28, 151 yards), the Dons even outgained the Cardinals, 295-260, overall.
What kept Loyola from cashing in, however, were four turnovers, including a lost fumble and two interceptions in the second half, as well as 93 yards in penalties.
“The guys played a spirited effort … but when you turn over the ball and make mental mistakes, it’s tough to beat really good teams,” Loyola coach Brant Hall said. “We just had another game like that where a couple mental mistakes, a couple penalties and a couple turnovers really hurt us.”
The Cardinals, who last weekend fell to Gilman, 35-7, in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title game, took advantage of some of those mental mistakes to take the lead.
After laboring on offense early, Calvert Hall got a needed boost by gaining 30 yards in penalties on a single play, following calls for helmet-to-helmet contact and unsportsmanlike conduct. Two plays later, Kuhns (9 of 13 for 177 yards, two touchdowns) sent a high-arching touch pass to Kyle Levere down the left sideline for the go-ahead score with 51 seconds left in the quarter.
Loyola, however, never wilted, and eventually pulled even near halftime when Clise scored on a 1-yard sneak with 3:53 left.
The game remained tied into the third quarter, when Calvert Hall freshman Rahshaun Smith recovered a fumbled exchange at the Loyola 32. Four plays later, senior Stephen Kelly ran a sweep around the right side to score from the 9, putting the Cardinals ahead, 14-7.
Once again, however, the Dons answered with a long drive, moving into scoring position when Hunt broke out of two tackles, lost a shoe and still gained 12 yards on a run to the right. That set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Clise, who faked a handoff and took off up the middle for the score with 5:10 left in the third.
“I thought [Loyola] played well in all three phases of the game,” Davis said. “They pinned us a couple times with their kicking game, offensively they controlled the clock and defensively they tackled extremely well.”
Calvert Hall nearly wound up in prime position for the go-ahead score midway through the fourth, forcing Loyola to punt from its own end zone. But referees whistled Levere for running into the kicker, extending the drive.
Finally, with 1:20 left, the Cardinals broke through. Kurek said offensive coaches installed the play — a fade route to the left — two or three weeks ago, especially with the Loyola game in mind. He said the idea originally had been to take the ball out of bounds and stop the clock.
This time, however, that wasn't necessary.
“I saw one-on-one coverage, but it was kind of starting to break down.” Kuhns said. “I was just like, ‘I’m going to throw it up, and I know my guy’s going to go get it.’”
“The play wasn’t designed for me — it was designed for the other two receivers behind me,” Kurek said. “But watching films, we knew we could go up on them. We just hadn’t had the chance to get the ball up there. I knew it was going to be open.”
After the Cardinals took the lead, Garrett Epple’s interception at the Loyola 38 sealed it with 55 seconds to play.
Loyola 0 7 7 0 -- 14
Calvert Hall 7 0 7 7 -- 21
CH-Levere 18 pass from Kuhns (Soriano kick)
L-Clise 1 run (Bradley kick)
CH-Kelly 9 run (Soriano kick)
L-Clise 11 run (Bradley kick)