Early in Saturday's Patriot Classic football game against Potomac, No. 8 Archbishop Spalding's offense moved the ball almost at will. But after Ryan Cochran scored on their first and third drives, the Cavaliers needed their defense and kicker Kevin Weiman to do the rest.
Weiman's 33-yard field goal made the difference in the Cavaliers' 15-12 victory over their Prince George's County opponent at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Spalding (2-0) then used three forced fumbles, an interception and a defensive stop on the five-yard line to seal the win.
"We wouldn't have won this game without our defense," Cavaliers senior running back D.J. Smith said.
On Potomac's final drive, with under three minutes to go, Spalding pressured quarterback Antonio Washington into three incomplete passes before Adam Merton sacked him on fourth-and-10 from the Wolverines' 30-yard line. Merton's hit forced a fumble that Connor Pequiney recovered on the 23, and the Cavaliers were able to run out the clock.
"The defense played outstanding today," Spalding coach Mike Whittles said. "They bailed us out quite a few times. We were in position [offensively] to do a couple things, and we shot ourselves in the foot a couple times. We just have to play smart."
Smith finished with 157 yards on 29 carries and gained most of the yardage during the first two drives. Cochran scored both touchdowns on four-yard runs to build a 12-0 lead with 11:20 left in the first half. The senior's second score was set up by Richard Gableman's interception, the first of five Wolverines turnovers.
Potomac (0-1) cut the lead in half on the next drive, when Aaron Williams hit Valshawn Wallace for a three-yard touchdown pass with 10:05 to go in the half.
Weiman's field goal came on a drive that appeared over when the Cavaliers faced fourth-and-six from their own 26-yard line. But Cochran was bowled over after his punt, and the drive continued.
After the field goal boosted Spalding's lead to 15-6 with 4:05 left in the third quarter, Potomac running back Ronald Darby, who has committed to Notre Dame, broke six tackles and raced 92 yards on the ensuing kick to pull within 15-12.
Jeremiah Johnson forced two of the fumbles for Spalding, and Robert Washington had an interception. The Cavaliers, offense stalled on several drives thanks to penalties, but their defense made sure that didn't matter.
"We knew they had a passing game and our secondary was struggling, but we were holding out," said Merton, a defensive tackle. "We stopped them."
Cochran rushed for 22 yards on five carries and Steve Manders gained 74 yards on six carries.
The Cavaliers, who moved up to the MIAA A Conference this fall after winning back-to-back B Conference titles, jump into conference competition Saturday when they travel to face Mount St. Joseph.
No. 8 Spalding 15, Potomac 12
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Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, 550 Taylor Ave, Annapolis, MD 21401, USA
P 0 6 6 0 - 12
AS 6 6 3 0 - 15
AS—Cochran 4 run, run failed
AS—Cochran 4 run, run failed
P—V.Wallace 3 pass from A.Williams, kick failed
AS—Weiman 33 FG
P—Darby 92 kickoff ret.