Calvert Hall football coach Donald Davis has been a part of the Turkey Bowl for many years as a spectator, player and coach. The head man for the Cardinals since 2007, Davis is thankful for the opportunity to coach in the 100th meeting between Calvert Hall and Loyola Blakefield on Thanksgiving.
“I grew up following the Calvert Hall-Loyola and City-Poly games on Thanksgiving really all my life, as far back as I can remember,” Davis said on The High School Football Show Nov. 18. “Then obviously in middle school going to the game and being a kid that ended up going to Calvert Hall, playing in the game for three years during my four years at Calvert Hall, and then coming back in 2007 as a coach and having a son that played in the game.
“I’ve been a part of the game on pretty much every angle, so it’s a blessing right now to just be the shepherd of the program.”
Calvert Hall (8-3) lost in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinals to eventual champion Mount Saint Joseph Nov. 9. Loyola (8-1) is playing an independent schedule this year, and its last game was a 47-12 victory against Largo Nov. 2.
With three weeks to prepare for one another, it can be difficult for teams to stay focused on the task at hand, but Davis believes the best approach to such a significant break from in-game action is to get back to the fundamentals.
“What we’ve done is take a little bit of a camp approach,” Davis said. “You obviously have an opportunity to reinvent yourself, but for us we just felt like getting back to the basics was probably going to be the best course of action for us. We’ve just gone back to our camp roots.”
“I think you run the risk of when you have that much time you’re like, ‘All right, we’re going o put in a gazillion new plays and we’re going to do a bunch of different things,'” Davis added. “You can sort of overcoach it if you give yourself enough time to. But for us we just thought that’d be the best course of action, similar to what colleges do with bowl preparation, which is to get back to basics a little bit and keep your guys sharp over the course of those three weeks.”
The Cardinals will lean on senior running back Sean Tucker, junior linebacker Mike Johnson and junior defensive lineman Chidi Ejoh to make big plays against Loyola. Tucker leads team in rushing with 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Johnson leads the team in tackles with 47. Ejoh accounts for 11 of the team’s 31 sacks on the season.
It will be up to Johnson and Ejoh to generate pressure and keep Loyola out of the end zone. Led by star junior wide receiver Jordan Moore, the Dons have scored 30 or more points in eight of their nine games they have played so far this season. Davis believes the key for the Cardinals to come out victorious is to slow down Moore and the Dons’ high-flying offense.
“When you’ve got a team that scores five touchdowns or more every single week of the season, it doesn’t matter who they’re playing. They know how to score points. They do some really nice things and it all starts with Jordan Moore,” Davis said. “That kid is probably one of the five best players in the area. He is dynamic. So, for us, it’s going to be a chore to slow him down for four quarters.”
The Cardinals have been preparing for this big game all season by competing in the tough MIAA A Conference. Davis said competing in the conference gives his team confidence to believe that they are not only one of the best teams in the conference, but one of the best in the state.
“This is probably as balanced as the conference has been in a long time,” Davis said. “Even though McDonogh went undefeated in the regular season coming into the playoff, I think all four teams that were in felt like they had a chance to win it. Talking to all of the guys, whether it was the guys at St. Joe, McDonogh, ourselves or Spalding, all four teams went into playoff time feeling like, ‘Hey, if we can have two good weeks, we’re going to be the champions.'”
To hear more from Davis, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Calvert Hall