When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Coaches: Donald Davis, Calvert Hall; Anthony Burgos, Franklin
Last meeting: None
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Calvert Hall: QB Colar Kuhns, Sr.; RB-SR Russell Neverdon, Sr.; TE Erik Evans, Sr.; LB-DE Rahshaun Smith, Soph.; DB Juantez McRae, Jr.; RB-S Nick Smith, Sr.; LB Stephen Grebeleski, Sr.; RB-LB Kevin Nickel, Sr.; OL-DL Spencer Tuveson, Sr.
Franklin: QB Jacquez Adams, Jr.; WR-DB Jordan Adams, Jr.; OL Patrick Allen, Jr.; OL-DL Evan Ostrow, Jr.; RB-LB Kiandre Burrell, Jr.; RB Maurice McFadden, Jr.; LB Bruce Damon, Sr.; RB Darius Hinton, Jr.; WR Steven Smothers, Soph.
KEYS TO VICTORY
In perhaps the most anticipated public school-private school clash of the season, the Cardinals and the Indians each have something to prove Saturday night.
The Cardinals aim to get back on the winning track after dropping their first two games to St. John's (D.C.) and Trinity Catholic (Fla.). The Indians want to show that their program can compete with one of the Baltimore area's elite private school teams.
For Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis, the game comes down to one thing: speed.
"They're fast. They've got a lot of kids who can roll," Davis said. "I've told our guys we're pretty stout on defense, but we're probably not going to shut them out. It's like trying to shut out Oregon. By their very nature, they're going to do some stuff on offense, scoring points or making big plays. Our offense has got to come alive, and defensively, we can't implode if they make a big play."
The Cardinals have the defense to try to counter the Indians offense, looking especially strong in the secondary with cornerback McRae and safety Nick Smith, as well as featuring a solid linebacking corps.
Despite their losses — to two of the better teams on their schedule — the Cardinals still have a two-game jump on Franklin, which opens its season Saturday night. That concerns Burgos a little bit, but the Indians tuned up for the season opener with game-like scrimmages against Harrisburg (Pa.) and Thomas Johnson.
"People ask me all the time, 'Why are we playing Calvert Hall?' " Burgos said with a laugh. "I'm not crazy. I wouldn't put my team in harm's way. I really feel we have a unit of guys who can really play."
The Indians, who reached the Class 3A state title game in 2010, will look to McFadden and Hinton to run the ball and open up the passing game. With Jacquez Adams taking over the offense this fall, he has a couple of prime targets in his twin brother Jordan Adams and Smothers.
Another key for the Indians will be their secondary, where Jordan Adams is key to defending the pass, which Burgos said could be tough with Kuhns' arm and a 6-foot-5 wide receiver in Cardinals junior Lawrence Cager.
"What they do well is get their key players in space and allow them to make plays," Burgos said. "They do a tremendous job of getting out in the flat areas very quickly. They also have a very tough running back [Neverdon]. He's fast and he has that extra gear."
The Cardinals will need big games from Kuhns, who has struggled early but passed for more than 2,000 yards last season, and Neverdon, who is also capable of breaking a big play as a return man or receiver.
Both coaches said special teams will be critical. The Indians haven't had much live work on special teams, and the Cardinals made some mistakes in their early games.
"We've got to take care of the football," Davis said. "We gave away two touchdowns on special teams [against Trinity]. They blocked one and ran it back for a touchdown and then we dropped a kickoff return and they ran it back for a touchdown. If we take care of the football, we improve our chances exponentially. We had two fumbles, two interceptions and gave the ball away twice on special teams which led directly to touchdowns. If we can curb that, we'll be better, because we have a very good defense."
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
No. 2 River Hill at Glenelg, Friday, 7 p.m.
Mansfield (Mass.) at No. 6 Dunbar, Friday, 7 p.m.
Middletown at No. 7 Westminster, Friday, 7 p.m.
St. Mary's at No. 13 Archbishop Spalding, Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 14 St. Paul's at Hereford, Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 15 Perry Hall at North Harford, Friday, 7 p.m.
No.1 Gilman vs. Paramus, N.J. at Rutgers, Sunday, 2 p.m.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun