Those wondering what brand of football would be on display when Niagara Academy of Ontario visited No. 2 Calvert Hall in Towson on Saturday found out early that the Cardinals were very conventional — and extremely effective — in their first-ever meeting with a foreign opponent.
A fourth-quarter letdown, however, made the score outcome closer than expected in a 34-21 Calvert Hall victory.
"We didn't know what to expect," said senior J.P. McManus about the Spartans (1-3), who play only American teams. "We just wanted to come out fast and finish strong. I thought our line played pretty well. We opened a lot of holes."
Calvert Hall scored four of its first five touchdowns on the ground, with tackles McManus and Trevor Beam, guards Chris Kircher and Jack D'Angelo and center Michael Monocheh winning the battle up front while building a 34-0 halftime advantage after the offense was stymied on its first two possessions by the Spartans.
"Their line definitely did a good job," Niagara Academy coach Geoff McArthur said. "When (Calvert Hall) coach (Donald Davis) put his backups in, we did a lot better."
Using a grind-it-out mentality, Calvert Hall struck first on an 11-yard run by senior Robbie Jones with 4:47 left in the first quarter after a punt return by senior Delando Johnson gave the Cardinals a short field at the Niagara 28-yard line. Jones scored four plays later before junior Jake Soriano kicked the extra point for a 7-0 advantage.
Sophomore Juantez McRae's interception and return to the Niagara 2-yard line set up a 1-yard burst by senior Stephen Kelly for another score with 3:45 remaining in the period.
Just 10 seconds later, senior linebacker Jamier Barksdale pounced on a fumble in the end zone for a 20-0 bulge.
The Cardinals added a couple of more touchdowns in the second quarter on a 14-yard sweep by senior Garrett Keene (five carries, 62 yards) and a 5-yard Jones run to take a 34-0 halftime lead.
"Our offensive line is starting to jell," Davis said. "We thought it would be one of our stronger units this year. We have seven or eight guys in the rotation that I feel comfortable with."
Niagara's offense finally came to life against the Cardinal reserves, scoring on an 18-yard run by Jordan Clout, a 45-yard tipped pass hauled in by Quinton Soares and a 9-yard reception by Clout against the first string that made the game more interesting in the waning minutes.
N 0 0 0 21 21
C 20 14 0 0 34
C-Jones 11 run (Soriano kick)
C-Kelly 1 run (Soriano kick)
C-Barksdale fumble recovery (pass failed)
C-Keene 14 run (Soriano kick)
C-Jones 5 run (Soriano kick)
N-Clout 18 run (Bested kick)
N-Soares 45 pass from Loucks (Bested kick)
N-Clout 9 pass from Loucks (Bested kick)