When asked to sum up his Calvert Hall varsity football career on early Thanksgiving afternoon, Noah Brannock turned his helmet to the back.
On a tattered piece of a tape on the right corner, Romans 8:18, was written in black letters.
“When things go bad, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Brannock, a senior quarterback. “Everyone’s journey is different, there isn’t a straight path. There’s always ups and downs.”
The 2022 season was nothing short of a roller coaster for the seventh-ranked Cardinals. Calvert Hall’s ride ended in redemption with a 17-14 victory over Loyola Blakefield in the 102nd Turkey Bowl in front of nearly 10,000 at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Senior Dylan Manna’s 33-yard field goal with one minute, 34 seconds left in regulation was the game-winner for the Cardinals (7-6 overall, 4-2 MIAA A), whose defense stopped Loyola on fourth down inside their 20-yard line in the final seconds to reclaim the Alumni Memorial Trophy.
The Dons maintain the advantage in the series, now 50-44-8, which included a 41-35 come-from-behind victory a year ago, taking the shine off of Calvert Hall’s MIAA A Conference championship victory.
The Cardinals’ reign was decisively ended in a 34-10 decision to second-ranked Archbishop Spalding at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis last Friday evening.
Six days later, Calvert Hall won the game that means everything to its alumni, school and fans.
“I didn’t want to lose again,” said Calvert Hall senior Ricardo Cooper.
Cooper’s 23-yard fake punt run on fourth-and-17, helped keep the Cardinals’ game-winning drive intact. Calvert Hall went 64 yards in 13 plays, taking nearly eight minutes.
Manna, whose first field goal of the season capped Calvert Hall’s epic fourth quarter comeback win at McDonogh last month (scored 17 points in final 2:30 of regulation), again split the uprights to give the Cardinals their first lead since the opening quarter.
“I went out there and did my job,” said Manna, who had his other made field goal this season in last week’s MIAA A title game defeat. “It wasn’t our best performance (Spalding), but we got to come back this week and show what we’re really about.”
Loyola was far from done, converting on a fourth-and-10 with 1:06 left in regulation. The Dons went from their 25 to Calvert Hall’s 25 after quarterback Bradley Seiss completed back-to-back throws to Kendrick Worthington (31 yards) and Shane Elliott (19).
Seiss (12-of-28, 162 yards) hit Marcus Hines for nine yards with 19 seconds left in regulation. The Dons sophomore quarterback missed Elliott in the end zone on third down, leaving Loyola with a fourth-and-one from the Cardinals’ 16 with 11 seconds to play.
Seiss handed the ball to Worthington (19 carries, 82 yards), who looked to get to the outside. Calvert Hall senior linebacker Duncan Kammar slipped through the line and got to Worthington from the back and Hunter Bowen finished the tackle for a one-yard loss with four seconds left.
“I was very surprised, I was expecting a field goal to tie it up and hopefully go into OT (overtime)” said Bowen, a senior defensive back who will attend Yale next fall and play lacrosse. “They went for it and didn’t get it.”
“We were hoping for a chance to win and put ourselves in position and weren’t able to finish it,” said a disappointed Loyola coach Anthony Zeyhoue. “I have to do better as a coach.”
Zehyoue pointed to having one timeout remaining and a missed field goal early in the fourth on the open end of Unitas Stadium in his decision.
“We wanted to take another shot at the end zone and go from there,” said Zehyoue. “We really didn’t want to play for overtime at that particular point.”
After blowing a two-score lead in the first half last year, Loyola recovered to score the final two touchdowns in regulation to end a six-game losing streak to Calvert Hall. Looking to win back-to-back Turkey Bowls for the first time since 2006-07, the Dons gave Calvert Hall a break in the opening quarter Thursday.
Hines, who played behind center along with Worthington for designed wildcat runs, had the ball snap over his head. DJ Ringgold recovered the ball for Calvert Hall at the Dons’ 19 after teammate Darius Smith misplayed it.
Three plays later, Dawan Dorsey (12 carries, 53 yards) scooted up the middle for a five-yard touchdown with four minutes, 37 seconds left in the first. Loyola gave the ball back to Calvert Hall as Cooper intercepted a Seiss throw.
Brannock, who completed nine of 13 for 146 yards, connected with Donovan Lewis for 34 yards on third-and-six. The Cardinals reached Loyola’ 16, but Hanna’s 33-yard field goal attempt sailed right.
The Dons got their first opportunity as senior Andrew Duvall blocked a Calvert Hall punt and recovered the ball at the Cardinals’ 34 with 3:08 left before halftime. Worthington, on a determined second effort, crossed the goal line for a four-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left before halftime.
After forcing Calvert Hall to a three-and-out to start the second half, Loyola went 52 yards in 10 plays as Elliott pulled down Seiss’ throw in the end zone for a 14-7 advantage with 4:40 remaining in the third.
The Cardinals quickly answered behind Brannock, who connected with freshman wide receiver Chris Hewitt for 29 yards on third down. Brannock, moving out of the pocket, hit junior Oliver Redd in the end zone from 29 yards, tying the game at 14 with 88 seconds remaining.
Loyola advanced the ball from its 43 to Calvert Hall’s 26 before Owen Scheihing’s 43-yard field goal try fell short with 9:24 left in regulation. The Cardinals went for an explosive play, but Brannock overthrew an open Lewis, running down the sidelines, by a couple of yards.
Brannock lamented the miss, kneeling on the ground for a couple of seconds. Moments later, Cooper sprinted down Calvert Hall’s sidelines for a first down.
On third down, Brannock (26 yards rushing) got 10 yards for a first down. He got seven yards on another third down play before Manna put Calvert Hall ahead to stay.
Loyola (4-6) wasn’t able to complete a second straight late game comeback in the Turkey Bowl, concluding its first season back in the MIAA A Conference (2-4). The Dons recovered from a three-game losing streak that featured back-to-back overtime losses (Georgetown Prep and St. Mary’s) and a 40-point loss to Mount St. Joseph in its MIAA A league return.
“We lost a lot of crazy games. It’s just heartbreaking because everybody put so much time and energy,” said Zehyoue. “I’m proud of the guys, they competed hard. We got to live with this for another year so we’ll get a chance to redeem ourselves.”
Redemption was found on an unseasonably comfortable Thanksgiving Day for Calvert Hall, which put aside last weekend’s MIAA A title game disappointment with a 10th victory in the last 12 Turkey Bowls.
“It’s been our whole thing this season, back against the wall…we leaned on each other, we bail each other out,” said Brannock, who added a Turkey Bowl win with two MIAA A championship game trips in his varsity career. “We don’t look at one guy, we look around to these 60 dudes.”
102nd TURKEY BOWL
at Unitas Stadium, Towson University
NO. 7 CALVERT HALL 17, LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD 14
Calvert Hall 7 0 7 3 - 17
Loyola 0 7 7 0 - 14
Calvert Hall - Dawan Dorsey 5 run (Dylan Manna kick)
Loyola - Kendrick Worthington 6 run (Owen Scheihing kick)
Loyola - Shane Elliott 14 pass from Bradley Seiss (Scheihing kick)
Calvert Hall - Oliver Redd 29 pass from Noah Brannock (Manna kick)
Calvert Hall - Manna 33 field goal