Unhappy with the way they played in the first half Saturday at McDonogh, the Archbishop Spalding football players bickered briefly at halftime.
Then, they left it all behind and came out united to rally from 13 points down to beat the Eagles, 14-13, in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference opener for both teams.
While the Eagles (1-4) held the Cavaliers' offense to just 23 yards in the first half, the Cavaliers (3-2) dominated possession in the second, especially in the final 18 minutes.
"In the first half, we weren't jelling as a team," Cavaliers quarterback Zach Abey said. "We were not getting a team effort. … so at halftime, we had a little bicker minute, the whole team. We all just got out our inner anger and I think that brought us closer together and we came out on fire in the second half. I don't think anybody could have stopped us in the second half."
Abey scored the first Cavaliers touchdown on a 37-yard run to cap a 66-yard drive — helped along by an Eagles roughing-the-passer penalty — with 2:35 left in the third quarter. Kicker Kevin Weiman then made what would turn out to be the deciding play of the game, taking a bad snap off the ground and completing the conversion pass to Melvin Gowl to pull within 13-8.
Weiman said the Cavaliers practice that play regularly, and Saturday it worked just as scripted.
The ball "just went behind the holder," Weiman said of the snap, "and I saw Melvin there. He was trying to make a play and got away from the defender. I threw it up and Melvin made a great play."
Gowl said: "I just turned around and I saw the ball on the ground and I went out for my normal route. Kevin threw it up to me and I got it."
After McDonogh went three-and-out, the Cavaliers started on their own 40 with 14.5 seconds left in the third quarter. Spalding's running game began eating up time, and the Eagles would have possession for exactly one minute of the fourth quarter.
Spalding running back Evan Byrd capped a six-minute, 60-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to take the lead, 14-13, with 5:45 left in the game. Abey tried the conversion pass, but Eagles freshman Eric Burrell batted it down.
The Eagles went three-and-out, gaining just two yards on their only possession of the quarter and the Cavaliers ran out the final 4:40. Abey, a junior who had nine carries for 65 yards and was 5-for-11 passing for 42 yards, carried twice for first downs in the final drive on third-and-short.
Cavaliers coach Brian Propst, whose team plays on Friday nights at home, said his team is always slow to start on Saturday, but the Eagles weren't, scoring twice in the first 13 minutes.
Justin Hawkins' 3-yard scoring run late in the first quarter, and freshman quarterback Jansen Durham's 84-yard touchdown pass to Taysean Scott 49 seconds into the second quarter put McDonogh up 13-0.
A couple minutes later the Eagles had a chance to boost that lead when Durham's 22-yard pass hit Scott in the end zone, but the senior receiver could not hang on.
"If we make those catches in the first half — I don't know if they could come back from as many if we make those," Eagles coach Dom Damico said. "We let them hang around and No. 11 [Abey] is a big strong kid and he kind of put them on his back. He drove the ball and we couldn't tackle him, so you have to give credit to their quarterback."
AS 0 0 8 6 -- 14
M 7 6 0 0 -- 13
M—Hawkins 3 run (Supovitz kick)
M—Scott 84 pass from Durham (kick failed)
S—Abey 37 run (Gowl pass from Weiman)
S--Byrd 7 run (pass failed)