No. 7 St. Paul's appeared to be flat in the first three quarters of a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference battle of unbeaten football teams at No. 9 Archbishop Curley on Monday afternoon, falling behind, 21-0, to put its 16-game winning streak in serious jeopardy.
In the final period, though, the Crusaders were simply fabulous, scoring 28 unanswered points in less than 10 minutes to stun the Friars, 28-21.
Senior running back Kaylon Johnson ripped off a 21-yard touchdown run through the heart of the Curley line with 1:05 remaining to seal the victory, but there were plenty of other heroes for St. Paul's.
Senior linebacker/running back Keifer Rawlings was outstanding on both sides of the ball, plowing his way for 71 yards on 17 carries and making key tackles from his middle linebacker position.
His biggest play was a blocked punt in which he pushed a blocker into the punter and St. Paul's (6-0, 3-0 conference) took over at the Friars' 9-yard line. The Crusaders scored the tying touchdown two plays later on a 10-yard slant pass from junior quarterback Anthony Pino to senior wideout Henry Ford with 6:24 remaining.
"They were backing off on us, taking away our deep routes in the first half," said Pino, who connected on 18 of 35 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. "We still had people open, but I was missing them. Then we went to more underneath stuff, and that started working for us."
Curley (6-1, 1-1) jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter advantage by breaking long runs by senior quarterback Garrett Reynolds (for 52 yards) and junior running back Marty Costes (68 yards) from its Single Wing formation.
The Friars then went up, 21-0, in the third period on a quick-hitting 18-yard run by junior running back Tyshawn Williams.
Meanwhile, the Friars' front seven was putting enormous pressure on Pino, forcing one three-and-out and halting another drive at the Curley 41-yard line in the third quarter.
Seemingly going nowhere, St. Paul's began its stirring rally innocently enough in the fourth quarter on a 65-yard drive capped by Rawlings' 1-yard rumble with 10:18 to go.
The Crusaders followed that effort by recovering an onside kick at midfield and scored on the fifth play of the ensuing drive on an 11-yard strike from Pino to senior wideout Tre Hamer to make it, 21-14.
After Rawling blocked the punt, momentum had swung fully to the defending conference champs' side.
"This is like last year, when we were down, 17-0, in the championship game (against John Carroll)," Rawlings said. "The winning steak isn't weighing on us. We just refuse to lose."
SP 0 0 0 28 28
AC 14 0 7 0 21
AC-Reynolds 52 run (Tummeniello kick)
AC-Costes 68 run (Tummeniello kick)
AC-Williams 18 run (Tummeniello kick)
SP-Rawlings 1 run (Duke) kick
SP-Hamer 11 pass from Pino (Duke) kick
SP-Ford 10 pass from Pino (Duke) kick
SP-Johnson 21 run (Duke) kick