Midway through the first quarter of Archbishop Curley’s season opening football game with C. Milton Wright, Friday evening in Bel Air, a strange site was visible to veteran observers of Curley football – a quarterback was standing in the shotgun formation.
Curley, a team that can go weeks without attempting even a single forward pass, suddenly has a vertical passing game thanks to the arrival of Cardinal Gibbons transfer Luke Stidham, who had a sensational debut at QB for his new team in a 42-21 Curley victory over the host Mustangs.
Stidham’s first pass attempt for the Friars was a 39 yard completion which was brought back by a penalty. Five plays later, he bobbled the shotgun snap, but recovered in time to toss a laser out to the right sideline. Anthony Williams hauled in the toss at the 20, made one tackler miss, and raced into the end zone for a 45-yard score. Stidham would go on to throw two more TD passes and he rushed for a third score.
“The transition has been great. The team has really welcomed me,” said Stidham, who completed 5-of-8 attempts for 140 yards. “Today I think we showed we got it together and we’re looking to win this year.”
For three quarters C.M. Wright went toe-to-toe with the bigger Friars in a contest that was far more competitive than the final score may indicate. Curley blew things open in the fourth quarter, but the Friars did not take the lead for good until the 2:26 mark of the third quarter.
Mustang quarterback Bryce Monroe gave Curley fits all night, as he rushed 21 times for 130 yards and was a perfect 4-for-4 passing for 40 yards. He rushed for two Wright scores and threw for another.
“We came out strong with the running game. We played our hearts out tonight,” said the illusive Monroe. “We came out here believing in our hearts we could win this game. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but we still put up a fight and we have pride walking off this field tonight.”
Following Curley’s initial score, Wright held the ball for nine minutes, five seconds, thanks in part to two drive sustaining penalties by the Friars, on fourth down. The march concluded with Monroe breaking free for a 15 yard scamper to tie the game at seven, with 7:31 to play in the opening half.
Curley countered with a 12 play, 76-yard drive, with Joe Evans navigating the final five yards to boost the Curley lead to 13-7 at intermission. CMW, however, refused to let the Friars build any momentum. Instead of kicking away to start the second half, the Mustangs gambled and won with an on-sides kick. Junior Brian Rice pounced on the ball at the Curley 45.
Working the short field, Wright tied the contest at 13 when Monroe laid up a beautiful fade toss to a wide open Adam Merryman, who made a nice diving catch in the right corner of the end zone to tie the contest at 13.
Penalties plagued Curley throughout the contest, especially on the ensuing kick, as a holding call negated a 98-yard touchdown return by Anthony Williams. Instead, the ball was placed on the Curley 49 where Stidham took charge. He needed just six plays to put the Friars back in front, completing the drive with a 21 yard strike to Antond McDonald.
With another lead to protect, the Curley defense finally stepped up its game.
Early in the fourth quarter, Neal Liverpool delivered a strip sack on Monroe and the loose ball was recovered by Curley’s Brad Faulhaber at the Mustang 23. McDonald swept around left end for 21 yards on the first play of the drive and Stidham navigated the final two yards on the next snap, extending the Curley lead to 28-13.
The defense forced a turnover on downs on the next CMW series and Stidham capitalized with a 49 yard pitch and catch to sophomore Kenny Thomas, to build the lead to 34-13. Curley’s final touchdown came on a 48 yard interception return by senior captain Demonya Womack.
Womack tipped his cap to C.M. Wright for its early success, but said his unit made some nice adjustments in the second half.
“We came with the wrong strategy at first, but in the second half we changed some things up and we started making some plays,” said Womack.
Womack also said his interception return was setup by something he had seen earlier in the contest.
“I read the play. I read my plays well. They tried the play earlier and I saw it. I made a good play on the ball and I took it to the house.”
The Mustangs were able fight back for one final score. Senior Steven Herold broke loose for a 62 yard run, setting up Monroe for his final score, a 21 yard rush to the end zone. Herold added a two-point conversion run to set the final score.
In addition to Monroe, senior running back Jordan Mangones had a big night in the running game for the Mustangs. He finished with 86 yards on 15 carries.
McDonald led the Curley rushing attack with 68 yards on five carries, while Evans churned out 54 yards on 11 carries. Williams finished with 67 receiving yards.
“We have not thrown the football like this in 10 years,” said Curley coach Sean Murphy. “We are very fortunate that Luke Stidham transferred over here. I promised him that we would be a little bit different football team if he came and I want to utilize his ability.”
Murphy also said he was not surprised by the challenge his team received.
“Their kids were fired up. I always know the first game, no matter what, teams are going to come out and play as hard as possible. We’re playing under the lights up here at C. Milton Wright, so I knew it was going to be a tough game. Their kids played really well. Their coaches should be very proud.”
Murphy and his Friars now turn their attention to their MIAA B Conference schedule. They will visit Boys’ Latin, which played in last year’s league championship game, next Friday.
Wright will hit the road next Friday as they go to Delaware to meet Delmar High School.
|Archbishop Curley 42, C. Milton Wright 21|
|AC-An Williams 45 pass from Stidham (Budnichuk kick), 4:36|
|CMW-Monroe 15 run (Bryant kick), 7:31|
|AC-Evans 5 run (kick failed), 2:00|
|CMW-Merryman 17 pass from Monroe (kick failed)|
|AC-McDonald 21 pass from Stidham (Budnichuk kick), 2:26|
|AC-Stidham 2 run (Evans run), 10:55|
|AC-Thomas 49 pass from Stidham (Budnichuk kick), 5:52|
|AC-Womack 48 interception return (Budnichuk kick), 3:13|
|CMW-Monroe 21 run (Herold run), 0:38|