As Eleanor Roosevelt running back Elisha McDonald plowed ahead, smashing into the C.H. Flowers defense on carry after carry toward the end of the third quarter Friday, a man wearing a backward camouflage cap and a mink coat stretching past his knees cheered on the senior.
"Five-foot-10, 215!" the man said over and over, referencing McDonald's height and weight.
Soon McDonald was in the end zone miming an eating motion, having scored his second touchdown of the evening. The man did the same from the sideline. "We eatin'! We eatin'!" he said.
McDonald rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns in Eleanor Roosevelt's 34-7 win in Springdale, helping the No. 19 Raiders avenge a regular season loss to the No. 8 Jaguars and advance to the Maryland 4A South region final against top-ranked Wise, which beat Suitland, 33-0, in the other semifinal. It was perhaps the most important performance of the senior's career, and his brother Quran Neischer couldn't have been happier.
"How hard he run, let's you know what he's been through," said Neischer, the man on the sideline, of his brother.
McDonald's family moved to Maryland from New York when the running back was 7 years old, in part to escape the dangerous Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Neischer said the family could see his little brother's potential from a young age, and so they rallied around him.
"It was hard, growing up," McDonald said. "My mom's a single parent. My brother was there to help me through the way."
McDonald's first touchdown, a 26-yard run, gave third-seeded Eleanor Roosevelt a 20-6 advantage early in the third quarter. The Raiders (9-2) led 12-7 at halftime, even though the second-seeded Jaguars (10-1) scored first and had two interceptions, the first coming on the game's first play.
The Jaguars fumbled at the 1-yard line midway through the first quarter, and Eleanor Roosevelt quarterback Jaden Faulkner finished off a 17-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run, giving the visitors their first lead.
Eleanor Roosevelt never looked back, chewing up the clock in the second half by putting the ball in McDonald's hands. After the senior burst through a hole for a 50-yard gain in the fourth quarter, Raiders Coach Thomas Green flashed a smirk.
"Who is that kid? When did we get him?" Green said.
By then Jaguars fans began filtering toward the exits, and soon the clock ran out on C.H. Flowers's previously undefeated season. McDonald celebrated with his teammates and Neischer, then turned toward a camera for a television interview. Faulkner, beaming, playfully stuck two fingers behind his teammate's head.
"We've been beating it in him since the DuVal game [a 47-0 win early last month]," Faulkner said of McDonald. "Ever since that game, we've been telling him, 'We know you can do it. We know you can do it.' "
So did Neischer.
"We've watched him do this," Neischer said. "He's always wanted to be a star."
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