By Eric Bem
In a back-and-forth battle, St. Mary’s football team showed its resilience and survived for a overtime victory on the road at Loyola Blakefield, Saturday.
Senior quarterback Carson Petitbon scored on a designed run from just inside the 10-yard on the second play of the 15th-ranked Saints’ overtime possession to deliver an improbable 36-30 victory over the No. 8 Dons in a MIAA intra-divisional contest.
“We never lose faith,” Petitbon said. “We always teach that with Saints’ pride. Backs against the wall – down by nine at start of fourth quarter. [We had a] great kick return. We never lost faith and that is what I love about the group of guys that we have.”
Loyola got the ball first in overtime. Junior running back Kyle Powell appeared to score on fourth down from the 1-yard line, but the referees ruled that his forward progress had been stopped prior to Powell’s lunge over the goal line.
Two plays later, Pettibon was in the end zone, pushing the Saints to 3-0. Loyola fell to 1-2 after a second straight gut-wrenching loss, set up by a controversial end of regulation.
With Loyola leading 30-27, the Saints drove the ball deep into Dons’ territory. With no timeouts and only three seconds left in the game, Petitbon got the snap and motioned to throw the ball to a receiver.
The ball slipped out of his hands and fell to the ground. With no time left on the clock, the Dons started to celebrate.
The game, however, was not finished. After a lengthy discussion, referees determined the pass had hit the ground prior to time expiring and one second was put on the clock. St. Mary’s kicker Andrew Marshall came on and calmly knocked through a 33-yard field goal to tie the game at 30.
The Dons opened the game by taking a 7-0 lead on a fumble return for a touchdown by Shane Elliott. The Saints responded right back with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Petitbon to Cotton Wyatt to tie the game at 7.
“We came in this game knowing it was going to be a dogfight,” Saints running back Patrick Cary said of his team’s performance. “We’re not the biggest, fastest or strongest [team] in the conference but we are the hardest workers. We never let ourselves get down. Eventually we wore their defense down and big plays came up when they needed to happen.”
Again, the Dons broke out in front scoring on a safety and following up with a touchdown run from Kendrick Worthington to go up 16-7.
Undeterred, the Saints clawed back into the game. Petitbon used his legs to put the Saints in scoring position as the clock dwindled under 30 seconds to go in the first half. Petitbon scrambled 11 yards for a first down on a third-and-long that put the ball inside the Dons’ 35.
With the clock winding under 10 seconds left, Petitbon took off from the 32-yard line and raced down the sideline. Rather than duck out of bounds for a field goal, the quarterback cut back to the middle of the field and eluded tacklers into the end zone to bring the score to 16-14.
“The boys played tough and I am super proud of them,” St. Mary’s coach Jason Budroni said. “Early on, things weren’t going our way. We made some bonehead mistakes. A couple times in the game, we could have said it’s over, but they kept grinding. I’m super proud of them.”
After an initial quiet start to the third quarter, things got interesting late in that period. The Dons scored on a pass from quarterback Brad Seiss to Kyle Powell as the Dons seized momentum with a 23-14 lead.
That didn’t last long as Shane Toal returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards, bringing St. Mary’s to within 23-20.
“If I am going to be honest, on the play before I missed a tackle [on Loyola TD] and I immediately went on to the kick return and I was like ‘I have to make up for it,’” Toal said of his big return. “I just ran hard and found the hole. After that, I had the speed to take it.”
The Saints gained their first lead with under six minutes left in regulation as Pettibon’s one-yard plunge on fourth down gave the visitors a 27-23 lead. Petitbon, a transfer from Gonzaga (D.C.), once again used his legs as he ran for 25 yards on a third down to get the ball into Dons’ territory.
“He’s a special kid,” Budroni said of Petitbon. “He made some big plays today with his feet. He’s a senior and he stepped up when we needed him.”
Loyola showed some fight of their own when they got the ball back with under four minutes left in regulation. The Dons capped off a 60-yard drive with a 12-yard run from Worthington that made it 30-27 with 1:19 to go – setting up the late drama.
“It was a close game and the tougher team won,” Toal said. “That was us today.”
It was another tough setback for Loyola, which lost in double overtime last weekend to Montgomery County’s Georgetown Prep on a two-point conversion after Loyola was flagged for roughing the kicker.
The Prep kicker had missed the game-tying extra point that would’ve given Loyola victory.
Saturday, the Dons thought they had victory in their grasp.
“Nobody is going to give us anything in life,” Loyola coach Anthony Zehyoue said. “That’s a great life lesson. Everybody’s yelling at the referees. We gave up a kick return for a touchdown. We gave up a touchdown right before half. We had plenty of opportunities to not let it come to that, so I am not going be a person that’s putting that on the referees.”
No. 15 SAINT MARY’S 36, No. 8 LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD 30 (OT)
St. Mary’s 7 7 6 10 6 - 36
Loyola 9 7 7 7 0
Loyola – Shane Elliott 31 fumble return (Owen Scheihing kick)
St. Mary’s – Colton Wyatt 16 pass from (Andrew Marshall kick)
Loyola – Safety (Patrick Cary tackled in end zone)
Loyola – Kendrick Worthington 4-yard run (Scheihing kick)
St. Mary’s – Petitbon 32-yard run (Marshall kick)
Loyola – Kyle Powell 8 pass from Brad Seiss (Scheihing kick)
St. Mary’s – Shane Toal 90 kickoff return (kick blocked)
St. Mary’s – Petitbon 1 run (Marshall kick good)
Loyola – Worthington 12 run (Scheihing kick good)
St. Mary’s – Marshall 18 field goal
St. Mary’s – Petitbon 8 run (Game over)