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MaxPreps pegs hurdling effort by Spalding's David Harding as year's No. 1 punt return

Archbishop Spalding senior David Harding doesn't remember a lot about his spectacular 78-yard return against Calvert Hall that was named the year's No. 1 high school punt return by MaxPreps this week.

The highlight of the return is Harding's leap over a Calvert Hall player at the Cavaliers' 45 yard-line before he continues to weave through players en route to the end zone.

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"Jumping over the guy is the only thing I do remember," said Harding, who then took a couple steps and cut to his left to escape a triangle of five Cardinals before heading across the field to finish his run down the left sideline.

Harding was amazed that the return was named No. 1 by MaxPreps.

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"It's definitely an honor," he said. "I never really thought that would happen."

Off the punt, the ball hit the ground and caromed to Harding's right where he snatched it out of the air with his right hand and and set off down field.

"At first, I didn't think I would catch it and I saw it bounced and I figured, 'Why not?'" the wide receiver explained. "I saw the guy go low and I decided to jump over him. It was really all blurred after that."

To refresh his memory, Harding can see the video whenever he wants. It went viral after the Cavaliers' 42-7 win on Oct. 9 and was one of MaxPreps' Top 10 plays of October. He's been hearing buzz about it ever since.

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Harding, who is committed to play baseball at Princeton, also plays basketball and the punt return came up at the Cavaliers' game at St. Frances two weeks ago.

"Some of the football guys were sitting behind the bench and making jokes about it," said Harding who laughed about it with the Panthers after the game.

Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt said one of his assistant coaches went to the snack bar at the Gilman football game and the students working the snack bar were talking about Harding's punt return.

Schmitt was not surprised by the return.

"David already blows my mind every single day whether it's on the football field or the basketball court or comedic value in general. He's a unique kid and player, so it was fun to watch," Schmitt said. "The week before, he didn't have a hurdle, but he took a jet sweep and went right across the field and came all the way back against Loyola. To cut back and forth across the field twice is just incredibly impressive. His vision is just exceptional."

During the Calvert Hall game, the coaches didn't realize how spectacular Harding's return was.

"We were on the far sideline," Schmitt said, "and we didn't quite sense how impressive it was, because the rest of the return is so impressive as well. It wasn't until late Friday night when we were watching tape and got a look at it when you realized how impressive a feat it was to jump a guy and then cut across field and go."

Harding, who seems a bit embarrassed by all the attention, said he couldn't have pulled that off by himself.

"The blockers did a good job of setting it up and giving me a lane. I just had the one guy to beat and there's other guys, but everyone was blocking down field for me."

Unfortunately, the touchdown did not stand because of a blocking penalty up field, but the play may live forever on social media as one of the top high school plays of the year.

"There's a lot of incredible plays out there and for us to honored in that way is a really cool thing," Schmitt said. "I appreciate him getting that recognition, because he's very deserving. He's made plays like that for us every day and he's made them for our team for the past few years."

Harding is considering playing football at Princeton, too, and Schmitt said the coaches are interested. However, Harding said, he will wait until after his freshman year to decided whether to play two sports.

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