For No. 8 Archbishop Spalding to avenge its regular-season loss to No. 13 Archbishop Curley and defend its Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference football championship, the Cavaliers would have to clean up the mistakes they made in the first meeting — and the mistakes they were making in Saturday's title game.
Cavaliers penalties and a turnover contributed to Curley's touchdowns this time in what was a one-point game until the final six minutes. K.K. Smith's 6-yard touchdown run with 5:58 remaining finally sealed a 21-13 victory for the Cavaliers at Mount St. Joseph.
Smith, who finished with 93 yards on 27 carries, gained all but 7 yards 40 in an 11-play, 40-yard drive that essentially clinched the title with 5:08 left. On his highlight-reel touchdown run, the senior bounced off a couple Curley players who thought they had him the backfield only to watch him sprint around the left side and dive into the end zone.
"I knew if we scored, we sealed it, because we were winning by one," Smith said. "I knew I had to score, so I did."
That was the first time the Cavaliers (9-3) breathed easily.
In the opening quarter, they contributed almost as many yards in penalties to Curley's first scoring drive as they had gained on their own initial touchdown drive. Three personal fouls — including roughing the punter at fourth-and-8 — moved the Friars into position for quarterback Luke Stidham to hit Dominick Hezekiah with a 20-yard touchdown strike that tied the game at 7.
"We stressed single-minded focus. Do your job. Don't worry about your teammates and what's going on around you," Cavaliers coach Mike Whittles said. "If everybody had that single-minded focus everything would work out and the kids did. They executed well. They had a chance in that first half to look back and see what we did well and also what we didn't do so well, especially on that one drive."
The Cavaliers took a 14-7 lead with 3:23 to go before halftime on Steve Manders' 8-yard run — his second touchdown of the game, but late in the third quarter Curley's James Bost picked off a Donnie Abey pass.
Again, the Cavaliers helped move Curley's offense along — especially with a pass interference on fourth-and-9 — and Dominick scored on a 3-yard run. But on the extra-point attempt, the Friars (9-3) fumbled the snap and Spalding stayed on top, 14-13.
"That botch on the extra point, that's a little bit of a momentum change," Friars coach Sean Murphy said, "I think if we could have gone in 14-14, that would have made things interesting. Once you miss the extra point, football's momentum and that made it tough for us."
S 7 7 0 7 -- 21
C 7 0 0 6 -- 13
S--Manders 14 run (Weiman kick)
C—Hezekiah 20 pass from Stidham (Budnichuk kick)
S—Manders 8 run (Weiman kick)
C—Hezekiah 3 run (kick failed)
S—K.Smith 6 run (Weiman kick)