The Trinity Catholic football team survived a 14-hour bus ride up Interstate 95 to make it to Calvert Hall on Saturday. Once there, the Ocala, Fla., power needed one frantic five-second spurt to secure a key early-season win.
That's how long it took the Celtics to score two touchdowns, including Dominique Brown's 12-yard fumble return off a kickoff, sealing the fate of the No. 3 Cardinals in a 21-3 loss.
Despite allowing just 30 yards on defense in the first half, time and again stopping the Celtics in key situations, Calvert Hall couldn't overcome the big play.
"We've obviously got to make sure we get some things fixed, and that's one of them," Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said. "Big plays can swing a game, and that was one of the things that did. It hurt us today."
Brown, a speedy defensive back, had a night to remember for Trinity Catholic, also scooping up a blocked field goal and scoring a 72-yard touchdown in the second quarter, then picking off a pair of Colar Kuhns' passes, including one in the corner of the end zone to end the first half.
Kuhns, who threw for more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, completed 12 of his 26 passes for 82 yards Saturday.
The loss dropped the Cardinals to 0-2 for the first time since 2009. They have scored only 10 total points in their first two games, including a 17-7 loss to St. John's (D.C.) in the opener.
Trinity Catholic (1-0), which began its journey north Thursday night, making stops at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Under Armour headquarters, didn't find its way into the Cardinals' end zone for much of the first half, despite several scoring chances.
"I was worried about playing. We just spent a whole full day in Washington yesterday, doing everything like the Capitol and the Smithsonian," Celtics coach John Brantley III said. "We came out a little flat, but ... I think the athleticism of our kids finally kicked in."
On each of their first three drives, the Celtics advanced into Calvert Hall territory, each time coming up empty. The Cardinals forced a pair of turnovers in the opening quarter -- an interception by cornerback Juantez McRae and a fumble recovery by linebacker Marcus Hicks.
But, like the Celtics, the Cardinals also failed to capitalize on the chances.
Calvert Hall scored its only points 44 seconds into the second quarter on Jake Soriano's 37-yard field goal. Then, the Cardinals had a chance to extend their lead, but that drive ended in disaster.
With Calvert Hall driving deep into Trinity Catholic territory late in the second quarter, Kuhns bobbled and then dropped the snap, and was tackled for a loss of 11 at the Celtics' 21.
On the next play, Soriano's 37-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by the middle of Trinity Catholic's line. Brown picked up the loose ball and outran a pair of Cardinals for a 72-yard touchdown, giving the Celtics a 7-3 lead with 4:18 left in the half.
"I wasn't sure if I was allowed to run it back or not," Brown said. "I did, and that was our most important score, to me."
Calvert Hall drove to the Celtics' 31 just before halftime, when Kuhns' pass for Dionte Austin in the corner of the end zone was tipped and then picked off by Brown.
The Cardinals again seemed to have the Celtics on the ropes after pinning them on their own 1-yard line with a punt midway through the third quarter.
On the first play of the drive, Carlton, a third-year starter at quarterback, found Richie Denicola over the top for a 36-yard gain.
"I think they were looking for us to run and just get some yardage, but we threw a streak route," Brantley said. "Reid hung in there and made a great throw, and I thought that we the turning point in the game."
With the help of a pass interference penalty, the Celtics then drove to the Cardinals' 1-yard line before Carlton pushed his way into the end zone.
Five seconds later, Brown recovered the botched kickoff return and ran it in from the 12 to extend the lead to 21-3.
Despite the loss, Davis said playing such a tough opponent early in the season will pay off when Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play begins.
"I think everything you do during the course of the season, if you do the job right, is going to help you," Davis said. "I think the good things that happen, I think the difficulties that happen ... if you learn from them, then they help you."
Trinity Catholic (Fla.) 21, No. 3 Calvert Hall 3
Trinity Catholic 0 7 14 0 -- 21
Calvert Hall 0 3 0 0 -- 3
CH-Soriano 37 FG
T-Brown 72 blocked field goal return (Denicola kick)
T-Carlton 1 run (Denicola kick)
T-Brown 12 fumble return (Denicola kick)