Calvert Hall's football team was pretty banged up after Monday's loss to Gilman and played without four starters in Friday night's regular-season finale at Archbishop Spalding, but the Cardinals only looked bruised for about eight minutes.
The No. 2 Cardinals gave up an early touchdown to No. 10 Archbishop Spalding and then shut out the Cavaliers the rest of the way en route to a 27-7 victory that clinched the No. 2 seed in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs and a first-round bye.
"After how well we played Monday against Gilman, we were fired up," Cardinals running back Stephen Kelly said of the 24-14 loss to the No. 1 Greyhounds in a game that had been postponed from Oct. 19 because of thunderstorms.
"We're getting on the right track and we really wanted to put that complete game together," Kelly said. "We did come out a little slow. Credit to them, they came out on fire, but we were able to regroup and after they scored that first touchdown, just made some plays on both sides of the ball. After that, we just kept rolling. Hopefully, we keep this going in the playoffs."
The Cardinals fell behind when the Cavaliers' Zach Abey scored on a quarterback sneak with 4:27 left in the first quarter, but they needed less than three minutes to answer. They went 86 yards — mostly on a couple of long runs by Kelly and Robbie Jones — to score on Garrett Keene's 1-yard sprint to tie with 1:48 left in the quarter.
Spalding went three-and-out on its first possession of the second quarter and Kyle Levere gave the Cardinals the lead for good when he ran the punt back 64 yards for a touchdown less than 20 seconds into the period.
With less than four minutes remaining in the half, Calvert Hall's Kennedy Frazier picked off an Abey pass and the Cardinals converted a 12-play, 3 1/2-minute drive culminating in Colar Kuhns' 10-yard touchdown pass to Erik Evans with 33 seconds to go before the break.
Abey, a junior, finished 10-for-19 passing for 110 yards and two interceptions. He also ran 22 times for 114 yards and made six tackles at safety.
"We came out with great fire and we all executed very well," Abey said. "I don't know how to explain what happened, but we came out so intense and somehow we have to focus on keeping that same intensity that we came out with."
While the Cardinals (7-2) improved to 3-1 in the conference, the Cavaliers (5-4) dropped to 3-2. Gilman and Calvert Hall get quarterfinal round byes in the six-team tournament, while the Cavaliers will be seeded third and host a quarterfinal game next Friday or Saturday.
Kuhns was 9-for-20 passing for 109 yards and a touchdown. Kelly ran eight times for 64 yards but had a touchdown run of 60 yards and another long gain negated by penalties that plagued the Cardinals in a second half in which the only scoring came on two Jake Soriano field goals — 42 and 41 yards.
CH 7 14 3 3 -- 27
AS 7 0 0 0 -- 7
AS—Abey 1 run (Weiman kick)
CH—Keene 1 run (Soriano kick)
CH—Levere 64 punt ret. (Soriano kick)
CH—Evans 10 pass from Kuhns (Soriano kick)
CH—Soriano 42 FG
CH—Soriano 41 FG