While not exactly analogous to third baseman Doug DeCinces' attempt to replace Orioles legend Brooks Robinson back in the 1970s, Calvert Hall quarterback Colar Kuhns knows what it's like to fill big shoes.
Taking over for Thomas Stuart, who graduated last spring after completing a stellar career in which he was regarded by some observers as the best quarterback ever at Calvert Hall and a master of pulling off magical comebacks, Kuhns had a daunting challenge on his hands.
Stuart's intangibles — uncanny pocket awareness, field vision and poise — combined with excellent scrambling technique and ability to deliver the ball on time while under pressure, made him unique in Cardinals' lore and a feared opponent by Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference defenders.
When Kuhns was tabbed to be Stuart's successor, comparisons inevitably followed the 6-foot-2 junior.
"I didn't really feel too much pressure this season," Kuhns said. "But I knew people wanted to have some of the same things" that Stuart brought to the team.
And although Kuhns had a very good year for the No. 2 Cardinals (9-3), a disappointing 35-7 loss to Gilman in the conference championship game last Saturday left a bad taste in the mouths of Calvert Hall players and fans as they approached their annual showdown with archrival Loyola (5-6) in the 93rd Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving at M&T Bank Stadium.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, Kuhns delivered when his team needed him most, tossing a long scoring strike to senior wideout Logan Kurek on an 83-yard catch-and-run with 1:20 left in the game to snatch a 21-14 victory in a game that appeared to be destined for overtime.
After Loyola punted to the Calvert Hall 22-yard line in a 14-14 deadlock, the Cardinals lost 5 yards on an illegal motion penalty.
On the next play, Kuhns (9 for 13, 177 yards and 2 TDs) dropped back into the pocket, looked to his right and noticed a Loyola safety moving toward senior wideout Kyle Levere, leaving Kurek on single coverage along the left sideline.
"When I saw the safety roll over toward Kyle, I saw Logan out there turning back in toward the hash marks, and, it was just one of those deals where I threw it to the inside."
Kurek said this year has been a "big step" for Kuhns' development and that the ball was "perfectly thrown."
Kurek added that, "watching film, we knew we could go up on them," although the winning play was not designed to go his way.
Senior running back Stephen Kelly, whose 10-yard sweep gave the Cardinals a short-lived 14-7 advantage in the third quarter, said he was impressed with Kuhn's demeanor in his first appearance in the Turkey Bowl.
"Especially today, he got crushed a couple of times (on sacks), but he stayed very patient and very calm," said Kelly, who rushed for a team-high 74 yards on 11 carries. "And then he made that huge play."
Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said that watching Kuhns, whose 10-yard touchdown pass to Levere gave the Cardinals an early lead, grow into a team leader has been rewarding.
"In any phase of life, when you're replacing someone who's been extremely successful, people put expectations on you that aren't always fair," he said. "But we saw it a couple of times in this game where he made adjustments, audibled, and it worked. It's all just part of his maturation process. We wanted him to work to his strengths and be his own man, and he did that today."