When: Friday, 4 p.m.
Coaches: Sean Murphy, Archbishop Curley; Paul Bernstorf, St. Paul's
Last meeting: Archbishop Curley won, 35-0, last season
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Archbishop Curley: RB-DE Nik D'Avanzo, Sr. (42 carries, 269 yards, 5 TDs; 22 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles); RB-LB, Kenny Thomas, Sr. (57 carries, 324 yards, 3 TDs); RB-DB Fred Johnson, Jr. (20 carries, 137 yards, 1 TD); RB-DB Nick Farmer, Jr. (16 carries, 103 yards, 3 TDs); QB Cyrus Boardman, Soph. (11-for-17 passing, 148 yards), OT-DT James Logan, Sr.; LB-FB Jake Harant, Sr. (34 tackles, 12 solo tackles)
St. Paul's: RB-LB Dale Harris, Sr. (39 carries, 527 yards, 8 TDs); RB-DB Kaylon Johnson, Jr. (29 carries, 176 yards, 4 TDs); WR-DB Tre Hamer, Sr. (4 receptions, 118 yards, 2 TDs), WR-DB Teddy Martinez, Sr. (5 receptions, 37 yards, 2 TDs), QB Anthony Pino, Soph. (14-for-28 passing, 227 yards, 5 TDs), OG Alec Auwaerter, Sr.; OT-LB Travis Wood, Sr.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Archbishop Curley has had the edge over the Crusaders for a while, having won six straight meetings dating back to 2004. Last season, the Friars ran all over St. Paul's en route to a lopsided victory, but by winning their three non-league games by an average of 37 points, the Crusaders have served notice that things might be different this time around.
The Crusaders, who return eight players on both sides of the ball from last season's 5-4 team, are looking to make a big move in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference. They have a solid running game led by Harris, who has averaged 176 yards rushing in the first three games, and a strong offensive line.
"St. Paul's is very good at running the football," Murphy said. "Their line is very good and I think their defense is fast and athletic. They've played more finesse teams that like to throw the football, so we're totally different than what they've seen. I think this is going to be a big game for them. They're all hyped up for it. We beat them good last year and the last time St. Paul's beat us was '03, so chances are those numbers will catch up with you eventually, but I think our team is focused this week."
The Friars started off with three straight wins and then stumbled a bit defensively in their B Conference opener last week, falling 34-29 to St. Mary's, another strong contender. Murphy said the Friars are determined to play better on defense this week against a Crusaders offense that starts with the run but has the ability to break big plays.
Curley's offense is almost exclusively a grind-it-out running game. Although D'Avanzo leads the way, Murphy can use up to six running backs. Four have at least 16 carries. They also have depth on the offensive line.
"They're always a big, physical team," Bernstorf said. "They run the ball so well. I think they probably set the state record against us a few years ago, rushing for 500 yards or something. They're very physical, very aggressive and they come right after you."
While the Friars try to bounce back from last week's poor defensive showing, the Crusaders have had to refocus after a bye week. They also went several days without practice as the school sponsored hiking, biking and canoeing trips.
Both teams, however, have plenty of motivation with a B Conference that looks even more competitive this season. While Curley heads into the game with recent history on its side, the Crusaders played a tougher first three games, with lopsided wins over Perry Hall and North Harford.
"They're going to come in really confident and we have to prove ourselves against them," Bernstorf said. "The key in any Curley game is who wins the line of scrimmage."
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
Aberdeen at North Harford, Friday, 7
No. 3 River Hill at Glenelg, Friday, 7
No. 9 Catonsville at Hereford, Friday, 7
No. 1 Gilman at No. 10 Mount St. Joseph, Saturday, 1
Severna Park at No. 12 Broadneck, Saturday, 1
Archbishop Spalding at McDonogh, Saturday, 1Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun