While some Calvert Hall fans had butterflies in their stomachs before Cardinals kicker Austen Strachan's first point-after try against archrival Loyola in the 92nd Turkey Bowl, coach Donald Davis was the picture of confidence.
He had faith in the junior from Lutherville, who missed an extra-point attempt in a 34-32 double-overtime loss to Gilman in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game last Friday that denied the Cardinals a chance to win in regulation.
"We scored [against Loyola] and we just told the kids to move forward," Davis said. "We told them just put all that other stuff out of their mind and not to worry about what happened last week."
Strachan, though, admitted to feeling some pressure after the Cardinals (10-2) scored to take a 7-3 lead with 1:50 to go in the first quarter of an eventual 34-17 victory over the Dons (4-6).
"I was nervous," he said. "I just wanted to get the first kick over with."
Once the kick was good, Strachan went on to add three other conversions in the annual showdown.
Strachan said he felt like a "burden was lifted off his shoulders," allowing him to enjoy the final game of the season for Calvert Hall.
Certainly, winning the A Conference title would have made a great season spectacular.
"The timing was a little off" on the snap in the championship game, he said, "and I was was a little nervous, too."
In truth, there were at least five other plays that could have been made to help pull off an upset of the Greyhounds.
Nevertheless, Strachan blamed himself for the loss.
His teammates rallied around him, according to senior quarterback Thomas Stuart.
"When we got back to school that night, the captains just told him to keep his head up and we gave him a little hug," said Stuart, who threw for 252 yards and two scores against the Dons. "I hope that he gets another chance next year to get [a title], and I know he'll come through."
And Strachan said he received numerous texts — and an unsolicited voicemail on Sunday from legendary former Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who had been inducted into the NFL team's Ring of Honor earlier that day — giving him support.
When Davis met Strachan at Calvert Hall the day after the Gilman game, he said football was not discussed.
"We talked about adversity," Davis said. "Everybody faces some bad things in life, people losing jobs, buyouts, somebody getting sick, that kind of stuff. How you respond to those things is what matters, and he came back on the same field, with the same goal posts and gets the job done. That says a lot about the kid's character that he was able to bounce back like that."
Calvert Hall president Brother Thomas Zoppo said that Strachan "is a wonderful kid. He's proud to be on the Calvert Hall football team and be a part of all this. And he made a significant contribution this season."