Calvert Hall and Loyola Blakefield football meet in 103rd Turkey Bowl looking for redemption

This isn’t the season Calvert Hall’s Emilie Dore anticipated. Coming off back-to-back trips to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game, his Cardinals have endured a spate of injuries, a brutal schedule and some poor luck in winning just four games.

To Dore, however, win No. 5 would change everything.

In Thursday’s 103rd Turkey Bowl, set for 10 a.m. at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, Calvert Hall can salvage its season in its annual Thanksgiving Day game against No. 5 Loyola Blakefield in one of the nation’s longest-running Catholic prep school rivalries.

“I told my guys, ‘This game is our redemption for the season,’” Dore said. “It hasn’t been the ideal year for us, but we’ve got a chance to offset all that. Go out with a win and be remembered as the 2023 Turkey Bowl champs.”

Calvert Hall (4-6) entered this fall ranked No. 4 in the area by The Baltimore Sun but saw its season fall apart during a six-week stretch in which it lost five games, including three by a touchdown or less. The Cardinals were officially bumped out of the MIAA playoff picture with a 42-14 loss to McDonogh in late October in a game that secured its first losing record since 2015.

“Losing to McDonogh a few weeks back obviously really hurt, knowing that our chances for the playoffs were dead,” Dore said. “We were defeated, but we woke up the next morning knowing that we have a chance to be reborn and redeem our season.”

“You win this game, and … it would be like you won the Super Bowl,” Calvert Hall coach Josh Ward said. “We start talking about it early in the season … then as soon as our focus is on it, we try to explain to our guys the importance of the game and the history of the game. I think that’s really how we build it up. We explain to everybody that this game has been played 103 years. It’s bigger than you.”

The situation is similar for Loyola, which made the four-team A Conference playoffs but had dreams of its first conference title since 2008 dashed by a 28-10 loss to Archbishop Spalding. Playing in a venerable series that predates the formation of the modern-day NFL, however, affords the Dons an opportunity that most other teams simply never get.

“We set goals in the beginning of the year. One of our goals was to go undefeated, to win the A Conference and to win the Turkey Bowl,” Dons coach Anthony Zehyoue said. “We didn’t go undefeated or win the A Conference, but we have a chance to reach one of our three goals. Because of the institutional history between the two schools and because of the legacy of the game, it’s massive. If we’re fortunate enough to win on Thanksgiving, everyone will forget about what happened [against Spalding].”

For Loyola’s Jayden Moore, simply getting the chance to play in another Turkey Bowl holds its own significance. The explosive playmaker, who is set to continue his career at Duke, missed last season’s game after tearing his ACL, and like the rest of his teammates, didn’t get to play in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He got a taste of the series as a sophomore and even had a key play in Loyola’s 41-35 win when he took the ball on a first-quarter reverse and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Hines.

Now, the senior is looking forward to one last chance to take part in the Thanksgiving showcase, which annually draws upward of 10,000 fans in addition to a large television audience.

“I’ve definitely been trying to hold my excitement for the end of the year … especially not being able to play last year and [with] COVID freshman year,” Moore said. “I’ve only really been able to play in one Turkey Bowl, so I’m definitely excited to play again.”

Zehyoue said Moore will be a “massive part of the game plan,” lining up in various positions on offense and helping to create mismatches all over the field. His presence, along with that of junior running back Kendrick Worthington, who Zehyoue believes is another Division I talent, will present a major challenge for Calvert Hall’s defense.

“Their running game is incredible,” Dore said. “I think we’ve got the upper hand in this game if we can stop the run. I think we’ll be able to do it.”

The Dons, much like the Cardinals, are hoping the game affords them the opportunity to end their season on a high note, leaving past heartache behind.

“Obviously this won’t redeem our whole season, because we fell short in the playoffs and no one likes that,” Moore said. “But I think that winning this and sending our seniors off on a good note definitely helps.”

103rd Turkey Bowl

No. 5 Loyola Blakefield (6-4) vs. Calvert Hall (4-6)

Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium

Thursday, 10 a.m.


Series: Loyola leads, 50-44-8

Last meeting: Calvert Hall, 17-14

Streak: Calvert Hall has won seven of eight and 11 of 13

Coaches: Calvert Hall’s Josh Ward (fourth season); Loyola Blakefield’s Anthony Zehyoue (seventh season)

Players to watch

Loyola Blakefield: ATH Jayden Moore (41 catches, 800 yards; 38 carries, 411 yds; 9 total TDs); RB Kendrick Worthington (177 catches, 912 yards, 9 TDs); QB Brad Seiss (109 of 201, 1,482 yards, 11 TDs, 8 INTs); WR-CB Ezra Carter (25 catches, 233 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs); WR Christian Renaldo (11 catches, 146 yards, 1 TD); LB Tommy Tucker (96 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks); LB Jonas Kligys (93 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks); DT Trevor Szymanski (5 sacks).

Calvert Hall: QB Nick Humpf (255 passing yards, 5 TDs); QB Jae’oyn Williams (515 passing yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs; 389 rushing yards, 6 TDs); WR Chris Hewitt (16 catches, 113 yards, 2 TDs); TE JT Taggart (21 catches, 292 yards, 4 TDs); WR Dane Grunder (8 catches, 167 yards, 2 TDs); Harrison O’Connell (40 carries, 246 yds); DL Emilie Dore (64 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks); DE Cole Ferrara (52 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks); DB Darius Smith (88 tackles); S Byron Baldwin Jr. (79 tackles, 2 INTs).


Calvert Hall has dominated this series in recent years, but Loyola will try to change that behind two of the area’s most dynamic playmakers. Moore, a Duke commit, can use his speed and athleticism to wreak havoc from anywhere on the field, while Worthington can both elude tacklers and bowl them over. Together with Seiss, the Dons have averaged more than 27 points per game on offense, scoring more than 30 four times.

The Cardinals, who entered this season as the No. 4-ranked team in the metro area, will need to limit Loyola’s big plays, particularly in the running game, and win the battle of turnovers. Humpf and dual-threat sophomore Williams should each see time at quarterback, and sophomore O’Connell and junior Jarrod Mack, a former starting running back who is back to full strength after suffering a knee injury in August, should see the bulk of the carries.

The first five minutes of each half will be critical in a series that runs high on emotion. The team scoring first has won each of the past seven meetings.


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