Prior to his team’s Friday afternoon football game with No. 8 Archbishop Spalding, Archbishop Curley head coach Sean Murphy talked about how much his team has improved over the last three weeks, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He openly wondered, however, if the improvement would be enough to slow the prolific Cavaliers and give his team an opportunity to pull an upset.
Curley shocked the defending MIAA B Conference champions, 17-7, behind a relentless defensive effort which shutout the Cavaliers until late in the fourth quarter. The Friars forced four Spalding turnovers, including three fumbles, and kept the pressure on Spalding until the Curley offense finally got on track.
The victory puts Curley (5-1, 4-1) right back in the mix for the MIAA B Conference championship game. The Friars are one of three teams with one conference loss, all chasing undefeated Boys’ Latin (5-0, 5-0). Curley owns a win and the tie-break advantage over both Spalding (4-3, 3-1) and St. Paul’s (3-1, 3-1).
“Defeating Spalding is extremely satisfying because they have been so good,” said Murphy. “Our defense was good today. It was a great effort and I am very proud. Spalding is a great team.”
Curley’s defense made a big statement on the second play of the game when junior Avery Williams crashed through the line, broke up a pitch play and gathered up the ball, which he returned 19 yards to the Spalding one-inch line.
The Cavalier defense showed it also came to play as it turned away the Friars on four consecutive plays to keep the game scoreless. Later in the first quarter, Curley got an excellent punt return, as Anthony Williams brought the ball back to the Spalding 20. Again the Cavalier defense stiffened, but the Friars managed to break the ice with a 26-yard field goal from Nick Budnichuk.
The teams spent much of the remainder of the fist half trading possessions, but Curley was dominating the field position and time of possession. That paid off late in the second quarter when quarterback Luke Stidham rolled left and lofted a beautiful ball down the sideline. Antond McDonald made an outstanding lunging catch on the play for a 38-yard touchdown, sending the Friars to the half with a 10-0 lead.
The third quarter was much more of the same, as Curley kept Spalding’s K.K. Smith and J.D. Izon, two premier playmakers, bottled up. With each passing series, the Friars grew more confident and it showed with growing offensive production.
With 9:52 to play in the third, Stidham threw another outstanding deep ball, this time to Dominic Hezekiah for a 40-yard touchdown reception, stretching Curley’s lead to 17-0.
Spalding finally go on the board in the first minute of the fourth quarter when Julian Washington made a nice catch in traffic, broke a tackle and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. Spalding moved into Curley territory one additional time, but never really threatened the end zone as the Curley defense closed out the big win.
“This was a total team effort,” said Stidham, the former Cardinal Gibbons quarterback who has transformed Curley’s offense. “We wore down Spalding and our defense dominated.”
Stidham completed 5-of-12 passes for 100 yards in the game.
“This was a tough game,” said McDonald, who finished with 52 yards receiving and made a game clinching interception late in the fourth quarter. “We didn’t give up. We kept our heads in the game.”
After a slow start, Curley was able to produce 255 yards of offense, including 147 on the ground. Joe Evans led the running game with 102 yards on 10 carries.
Next Saturday, Curley will remain at home to face Severn for its Homecoming. Spalding will celebrate its Homecoming as well in Severna Park, as it welcomes in Boys’ Latin in another huge B Conference clash.
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|Archbishop Curley 17, No. 8 Archbishop Spalding 7|
|AC-Budnichuk 26 FG|
|AC-McDonald 38 pass from Stidham (Budnichuk kick)|
|AC-Hezekiah 40 pass from Stidham (Budnichuk kick)|
|AS-Washington 40 pass from Abey (Weiman kick)|