Mount St. Joseph didn't win a single Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football game during the regular season, but running back Nevone McCrimmon made sure that trend didn't continue in the playoffs.
Offensive linemen Patrick O'Connell, Shane Lowman, Jake Dahl, Nick Phelps and Matt Lindner blew holes in Archbishop Spalding's defense and McCrimmon ran 30 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns as the visiting Gaels upset the No. 10 Cavaliers, 19-13, Saturday night in an A Conference quarterfinal.
"We knew we had it in us," O'Connell, a senior, said. "To be honest, I'm shocked that we didn't have a regular-season win in the A Conference, but I'm not mad about it. I'm happy we were able to get a win over Spalding in the playoffs, because that's when it really matters."
The Gaels (4-6) will meet second-seeded Calvert Hall in Saturday's noon semifinal at Stevenson University, followed by McDonogh taking on top-seeded and defending champion Gilman at 5 p.m.
With the victory, the Gaels avenged a 29-11 loss to the Cavaliers (5-5) on Oct. 12. Coach Blake Henry had been telling the team that, despite their A Conference record, they could beat anybody.
"Usually when you have some tough losses like we had, the team struggles and fades at the end of the year," Henry said, "but if you've been to our practices the last couple weeks, you saw a bunch of guys who were still hungry and still enthusiastic and still loving football and wanting to win and that was the difference for us."
The Cavaliers scored first on quarterback Zach Abey's 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Despite another workhorse game for the junior, who had 18 carries for 83 yards and was 9-for-15 passing for 109 yards, Spalding didn't score again until the final two minutes.
After the Cavaliers' seven-minute scoring drive, the momentum shifted when they could not convert on fourth-and-2 in Mount St. Joseph territory on their next drive although Ryan Baublitz nearly hauled in a one-handed grab on Abey's fourth-down pass. The Gaels took advantage of the short field and McCrimmon scored on an 11-yard run to tie it at 7 with 4:05 to go before the half.
Spalding coach Brian Propst had a good reason to take the risk.
"I just thought we could make it happen," Propst said. "We hadn't been stopped on fourth down yet this year and [it happened] two times tonight, but it's all right. This team didn't let me down. They gave it all they had. Mount St. Joe was ready for us."
The Gaels converted three of four times they started a drive in Spalding territory. With McCrimmon gaining positive yardage on all but three of his carries, the Gaels had little trouble moving to the end zone when they started on the Cavaliers' 44, 37 and 18.
McCrimmon scored on a 3-yard run with 58.5 seconds left in the first half and quarterback Robert Busick hit Kyree Calli with a 14-yard touchdown pass for a 19-7 lead as time expired in the third quarter.
With 3:12 left in the game, Spalding's Daniel Barber recovered a Gaels' fumble and the Cavaliers went 54 yards on two Abey passes. Evan Byrd scored on a 41-yarder with 1:25 to go. Spalding tried the onside kick but the Gaels recovered and McCrimmon ran three times for a first down to seal the win.
"When we came out from last week and we didn't have as much of a good game (31-28 loss to Loyola), I told my coach, 'Give me the ball and we're just going to pound it.' I didn't think they could stop us," McCrimmon said. "[The offensive line] did so well and I was so proud of the line. They stayed on their blocks the whole game and that made a big difference. That opened up the holes for me."
MSJ 0 13 6 0 -- 19
AS 7 0 0 6 -- 13
AS—Abey 3 run (Weiman kick)
MSJ—McCrimmon 11 run (Nelson kick)
MSJ—McCrimmon 3 run (kick failed)
MSJ—Calli 14 pass from Busick (kick failed)
AS—Byrd 41 pass from Abey (kick failed)