On a windy and cold night in Annapolis at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Archbishop Spalding rode a suffocating defense to topple Calvert Hall, 34-10, and capture the school’s first MIAA A football conference championship on November 18.
The Cavaliers’ defense applied a steady dose of pressure throughout the night, which led to four turnovers and multiple sacks as Calvert Hall quarterback Noah Brannock couldn’t escape. The sacks were led by defensive lineman Damien Wilburn and linebackers Keyshawn Flowers and PJ Poknis.
“The defense was incredible tonight,” said Cavaliers head football coach Kyle Schmitt. “They were very opportunistic tonight, and Tyrone Forby is the best defensive coordinator in the state.”
On Spalding’s first drive, quarterback Malik Washington turned to his favorite receiver, Max Moss, for several catches and the two punctuated that drive with a touchdown pass to Moss at the 9:48 mark of the first quarter.
On their first procession, Calvert Hall mounted a drive that was suddenly halted by an interception by cornerback Jayden Shipps.
Spalding sputtered on the next few processions, but the unheralded Spalding defense smothered the Cardinals’ offensive scheme, which led to numerous punts in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Calvert Hall’s Ricardo Cooper had a 35-yard punt return that gave the Cardinals the ball at Spalding’s 12-yard line. Again, Spalding’s defense was up to the challenge and Calvert Hall had to settle for a 23-yard field goal, making it a 7-3 contest.
Spalding needed some offensive momentum and began a drive deep in their own territory with about six minutes to go in the half. Schmitt huddled his offensive coaches together for a play call. The result of that huddle was a 92-yard blast by tailback Hakim Simms on the first play of the drive.
Spalding was up 14-3 within seconds.
“I just thought we needed to get back to our ground game, and Hakim found the gap, and he has breakaway speed,” Schmitt said. “It was the turning point of the game.”
The Cavaliers got the ball to start the second half and mixed short passing plays and a strong running game that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown by Simms, giving the Cavaliers a comfortable 21-3 lead.
The Cardinals went to a quick passing game to slow down the Cavaliers rush, but Poknis intercepted a pass over the middle and sprinted 45 yards to the end zone.
In the fourth quarter, Calvert Hall marched down the field. Running back Daniel Harper found a seam and sliced through Spalding’s secondary for the lone Calvert Hall touchdown of the game.
Calvert Hall had a successful onside kick, but the Cavaliers’ defense answered the challenge and stopped Calvert Hall on a fourth-and-2.
Then to cap off the scoring for Spalding, Washington threw a 32-yard fade pattern to Moss, making the score 34-10.
With less than a minute remaining, Schmitt took a well-deserved Gatorade shower, and the celebration began as students stormed the field.
Schmitt praised his group and noted that although they’re a young team, plenty of senior leadership was provided.
The Cavaliers finished 11-1 on a year that had them play a difficult schedule with games against regional powers Don Bosco of New Jersey, Imhotep Charter of Philadelphia and Gonzaga of Washington, D.C.
“Those games made us better and gave the young guys great experience with top-level talent,” Schmitt said.
The Cavaliers return 15 starters for next year as well as the additions from a 10-0 junior varsity squad.
“We’re proud of what we built and to be part of the school’s culture,” Schmitt said.
To add to the history and culture of the program, the MIAA A Division championship trophy is named after former Spalding head coach Mike Whittles, who died of pancreatic cancer 10 years ago. This is the first time that the trophy will reside at Spalding.
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