Archbishop Spalding senior quarterback Zach Abey usually leaves opposing football coaches frustrated.
He did it again Friday in the No. 10 Cavaliers’ 21-10 victory over Loyola Blakefield in Severn, rushing for three touchdowns and 170 yards on 23 carries.
“I think he is the first best football player in the state,” Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt said of Abey, who also had an interception from his safety position. “He is everything you are looking for in a leader. He has no fear. He will run around and through guys. He is like a tailback when he carries the football.”
The Spalding defense also did its job in the Maryland Interscholastic Atheltic Association A Conference opener for both schools. The Cavaliers sacked Loyola junior quarterback Ben Evans four times and intercepted him three times in the second half.
Alex Plotkin had two sacks.
Spalding (4-1) started slowly and wasted a great scoring opportunity on its first drive. After Ronald Beswick returning the opening kickoff 50 yards, the Cavaliers moved to the Loyola 10-yard line before Abey fumbled and the Dons recovered.
Undaunted, Spalding drove to the Loyola 21 on its next drive until consecutive penalties on the offensive line — a false start and holding call — stalled the series.
The Cavaliers finally broke though on their third opportunity when the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Abey, who will attend the University of Buffalo on a football scholarship, burst up the middle and broke several tackles on a 59-yard touchdown run — his eighth of the season — to make it 7-0 with 7:12 remaining in the second quarter.
Abey had 104 yards on eight carries in the first half.
Loyola (2-3) trimmed the lead to 7-3 on the last play of the second quarter on Gavin Rowley’s 24-yard field goal.
Rowley missed a 30-yarder one play earlier, but was given a second chance on Spalding’s running-into-the-kicker penalty.
Evans (18-for-30, 194 yards) keyed the 88-yard drive, completing 6 of 7 passes for 64 yards.
The Dons went ahead, 10-7, on the first drive of the second half on Evans' 1-yard plunge to cap an 11-play, 72-yard drive.
Evans set up the score when he hit junior wide receiver Will D'Angelo for a 14-yard competition on 4th-and-14.
Loyola senior defensive lineman Jack Kenny blocked sophomore kicker Kyle Butts’ 33 field goal attempt with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter, but the Cavaliers recovered a fumble on a bad snap 90 seconds later.
Two plays after that turnover, Abey capitalized on a 4-yard run to make it 13-10 with 4:08 left.
Loyola rallied on its next possession, moving to the Spalding 10 after Evans’ 68-yard run.
The drive hit a roadblock, however, when Evans' pass was tipped and intercepted by Dylan Jones to end the scoring threat.
Avery Simmons set up Spalding's final touchdown on another interception that led to more heroics by Abey, who gained 34 yards on four consecutive runs, including an 8-yard touchdown with 3:30 left in the game.
“He is big, physical and has good speed,” Loyola coach Brant Hall said of Abey. “He makes that offense go.”
No. 10 Archbishop Spalding 21 Loyola 10
AS 0 7 7 7 -- 21
L 0 3 7 0 -- 10
AS —Abey 59 run (Butts kick)
L — Rowley 24 field goal
L —Evans 1 run (Rowley kick)
AS Abey 4 run (Butts kick)
AS Abey 8 run (Butts kick)