No. 2 Mount Saint Joseph (8-1) at No. 5 Archbishop Spalding (5-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Coaches: Rich Holzer, Mount Saint Joseph; Kyle Schmitt, Archbishop Spalding
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mount Saint Joseph: RB Marlowe Wax, Jr.; QB Billy Atkins, Soph.; WR Dont’e Thornton, Soph.; DL Tyler Leavy, Jr.; WR Maurice Nelson, Sr.; LB Nate Slutzky, Jr.
Archbishop Spalding: QB-DB Jayden Umbarger, Sr.; DB Logic Hudgens, Sr.; OL-DL Jahmeer Carter, Jr.; DB-RB Sean Spencer, Sr.; WR Chris Clark, Sr.; WR-DB Brevon Easton, Sr.
KEYS TO VICTORY
There is no playoff for the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football championship this year — St. Frances has been awarded the title after the other teams refused to play the Panthers this season — but this is the closest thing to it. If Mount Saint Joseph wins, the Gaels would be 4-0 against the remaining A Conference teams. If Spalding wins, the Cavaliers would be tied at 3-1 with the Gaels and Calvert Hall.
The Gaels have won six straight games since falling to Good Counsel on Sept. 9. Atkins, who set a school record for passing yardage in the season opener, has thrown for 2,039 yards and 27 touchdowns. Wax has run for 742 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“They put a lot of points on the board,” Schmitt said. “They throw the ball as well as anybody we’ve played. Their defense is opportunistic. They get turnovers and put the offense in great position to win. We have to limit the big plays on defense and make them earn their yards. Then on offense we have to be really efficient.”
Holzer, who fields a young team that will return almost intact next season, said his players are still growing but he’s seen great maturity over the season.
Against Spalding, he said, they’ve “got to be ready for a dogfight.
“They’re really well coached and they have disciplined kids who play very hard,” Holzer said of the Cavaliers. “We’ve got to play a mistake-free football game and be at the top of our game, because they’re not going to make mistakes.”
Umbarger, who plays in multiple spots on offense, leads the Cavaliers with 15 touchdowns, rushing for 11 and passing for four. None of the Cavaliers has spectacular stats, but they have a lot of players who can score.
In the season opener, the Cavaliers went toe-to-toe with nationally ranked Good Counsel in a game that was called because of lightning tied 35-35. The Gaels fell to Good Counsel, 58-6.
Mount Saint Joseph, however, beat Calvert Hall, 21-7, but the Cavaliers fell to the Cardinals by the same score.
While the Gaels beat Spalding last year, 22-7, the teams have split their past 10 meetings with neither winning more than two in a row.
Early in the season, most coaches did not believe any team could go undefeated against A Conference competition.
“It would be a great accomplishment for the kids, especially being so young on both sides of the ball,” Holzer said, “because we play in a league with some very good football teams. … To come out on top would be no small feat.”
Schmitt said: “This is a huge game from a rivalry standpoint to a recruiting standpoint to just measuring ourselves against the No. 2 team in The Sun and the No. 4 team in the state. For us, it would be a signature win. Our St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) win a few weeks ago was huge and we’ve beaten some really good football teams this year, but Mount St. Joe probably comes in with the most accolades other than Good Counsel, which didn’t get finished. ... And it would be, for our seniors to win two of the past three years, a heck of a way to go out on senior night.”
Showdown skinny: Each week of the regular season, fans have voted for an area high school football matchup to be featured by the Ravens and The Baltimore Sun. As in previous weeks, this Ravens RISE Showdown will receive a visit from the Ravens mascot Poe and a few Ravens cheerleaders (subject to availability), and the stadium will be outfitted with Ravens banners and flags. In addition, $1,500 will be donated to each participating school’s athletic department with each team receiving T-shirts to commemorate their experience playing in the Ravens RISE High School Football Showdown.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
» St. Paul’s at Boys’ Latin, Friday, 2:30 p.m.
» No. 5 Broadneck at Annapolis, Friday, 6:30 p.m.
» Chesapeake-AA at Northeast, Friday, 6:30 p.m.
» City vs. Poly at Morgan State, Friday, 7 p.m.
» McDonogh at Gilman, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.