Archbishop Spalding’s football team had to be close to perfect in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — if they wanted to beat the Philadelphia-based St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, USA Today’s eighth-ranked team in the nation, on October 20.
The Cavaliers from Spalding were plagued with penalties, three turnovers and missed opportunities to put points on the scoreboard at crucial times in the game, and Spalding ultimately fell to the visitors, 24-6.
On a rain-soaked night in Severn, St, Joseph’s Prep used their massive offensive line to create holes for big gains and used the legs of quarterback Samaj Jones to control the clock and keep the high-powered offense of the Cavaliers on the sidelines. The Hawks from St. Joseph’s tallied 335 rushing yards on the night.
From St. Joseph’s first possession, the Hawks established their potent rushing attack by using a variety of sweeps and quarterback option plays to move the ball down the field in front of the capacity crowd, which featured several college coaches in attendance. St. Joseph scored twice in the first quarter and added a field goal in the second quarter to lead at halftime 17-0.
Spalding’s defense was led by its defensive backfield, which includes sophomore Sean Johnson of Severna Park as well as Trent Gillis and Jayden Shipps. Free safety Tyler Brown sustained a concussion in the first quarter and was done for the game.
“Losing Tyler in the first quarter really hurt our secondary, but Johnson, Shipps and Gillis had exceptional games and made some great one-on-one tackles and prevented some long runs,” said Spalding head coach Kyle Schmitt.
The third quarter was a battle of titans, and the ferocious and pad-popping tackles could be heard throughout the stadium.
The Cavaliers defense made several stops and Spalding’s offense gathered momentum. Spalding quarterback Malik Washington connected with receivers RJ Newton, Aaron Igwebe and David Ledbetter with quick passing routes and moved the ball into Hawks territory. The drive stalled, and Spalding had to settle for a Cooper Welsh field goal attempt that sailed wide right.
Spalding’s only score came in the fourth quarter as Washington scrambled out of the pocket and sprinted 58 yards. The two-point conversion failed, making the score 24-6.
“St. Joe is a really good football team, and they took advantage of some of our undersized positions,” Schmitt said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my team, and we have made massive jumps since the beginning of the season.”
Archbishop Spalding is still undefeated in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) league play and wants to continue to improve with the league playoffs on November 10 and November 19.
“We needed to run the ball better tonight and we stalled in the red zone,” Schmitt said. “This experience will make us better for the playoffs.”
Schmitt and Spalding’s athletic department selects regional high school football powerhouses to complete their schedule each year. This year, the Cavaliers have also played Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey and Imhotep Charter from Philadelphia. Schmitt’s philosophy is to battle top teams to see how his Cavaliers stack up against regional competition.
Schmitt also enjoys the crowds his team attracts for every home game and uses that to sway players from the region’s youth football leagues to attend Spalding.
Johnson, a Severna Park resident, was one of those players from the Green Hornets program who got to be on the sideline for a Spalding game and wanted to play at Spalding because of the bright lights and spirit of the fans.
“It was so loud, and the students really supported the team as well as they had this big band playing music throughout the game,” Johnson said.
Severna Park’s Jameson Coffman, whose coach calls him the ultimate competitor, has scored 12 touchdowns this season.
“I love the spirit at Spalding; I mean the entire school community is excited about the football program, from the administration to the teachers, to the students,” Coffman said.
Seven players from the Severna Park and Arnold area are on the Cavaliers squad.
When asked about their greatest memory with Spalding football they have experienced so far, the unanimous response was winning the MIAA championship game last year in Annapolis. It’s a feat this year’s squad hopes to duplicate.