Old rivals put on an exciting battle as the long-awaited 2020 high school football season gets underway


by Gary Adornato

Archbishop Curley and John Carroll renewed one of the fiercest football rivalries in the MIAA B Conference, Friday night in Bel Air. This meeting, however, took place outside the confines of conference play as part of the 2020 “open-season.”

In the belated season opener for both squads, the Friars and Patriots, as they usually do, put on an entertaining show, with visiting Curley storming from behind in the second half for an exciting 31-21 victory.

It was a bit of revenge for Curley which saw John Carroll come from behind in last year’s regular season finale to top the Friars in overtime and eliminate them from the playoffs. Curley senior quarterback Kofi Kwaw and senior fullback/linebacker Ronald Clark were both on the field for that setback and they led Curley’s bounce-back on Friday.

Senior quarterback Kofi Kwaw (left) threw for two scores and rushed for a third, while Ronald Clark rushed for 118 yards and a score to lead Curley over John Carroll.

Kwaw completed 10-of-17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, while Clark rushed 23 times for 118 yards and one touchdown. Clark also was in the middle of a Friar defense which recovered from a rough start to shutout John Carroll in the second half.

Early on it was all John Carroll.

After forcing a Curley punt on the first possession of the night, John Carroll went 57 yards on eight plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Antonio Brown to senior running back London Drummond. Drummond, who rushed for 82 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns (1 rushing and 1 receiving), kick-started the drive with a 29-yards run on the Patriots’ first snap from scrimmage.

Curley went three and out for a second straight time, on its next possession, and John Carroll was right back in business. This time the Pats went 49 yards on four plays with University of Maryland commit Roman Hemby sprinting around right end for a 17-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 Patriots’ lead.

Curley’s offense finally got in gear on the ensuing possession, going 66 yards on six plays, led by Kwaw and Clark. With his team facing a third-and-10 at its own 27, Kwaw found senior John Munk with a wide receiver screen and Munk turned it into a 47-yard gain and a first down at the JC 26. Clark moved the Friars closer with a 13-yard run and Kwaw rushed the final 13-yards to pull Curley within 14-7 with 2 minutes, 12 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Curley’s first score did not immediately flip the momentum, as John Carroll followed with its third straight touchdown drive, marching 56 yards in 12 plays and building a 21-7 lead on a 7-yard run by junior Connor Martin.

It would have been hard to imagine at that point, but the Patriots would not score again.

“In the first half we were on our heels, just trying to get adjusted,” said Curley coach Brendan Ireton. “Luckily, our offense kept us in the game and made some big plays.”

Following the third JC touchdown both teams turned the ball over on downs with the Patriots returning the football to Curley, at the Friars 31, with just 1:15 remaining in the opening half. Curley managed the clock beautifully, getting two long runs from Kwaw and a 21-yard completion from their senior quarterback to senior Denzel Evans to move to the John Carroll 28 with just five-seconds left in the second quarter. There they turned to freshman placekicker Chris Pond who booted a 41-yard field goal, cutting John Carroll’s lead to 21-10 at the half.

“I think that was a big momentum shift because, coming into the game, I don’t think we had the mindset of what if we get down,” said Kwaw. “I think the kick was the biggest momentum shift because it just transformed the whole team.”

The second half was dominated by the Friars.

John Carroll got the ball first and managed one first down, but the next series led to a punt and a low snap caused punter Nick Barry’s knee to hit the turf before he could get his kick off. That gave Curley the ball at the Patriots’ 46 yard line. They quickly moved into the red zone before scoring on a 14-yard pass from Kwaw to senior Matt Miller, cutting the Friars’ deficit to 21-17.

Following that score Curley perfectly executed an on-side kick which was recovered by the Friars’ Virgil Watson. That led to a seven play 49-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Kwaw to Jamal Avery, vaulting Curley to its first lead, 24-21, with 3:16 left in the third quarter.

Curley continued to dominate the pigskin as the Patriots ran just one play before a fumble gave the ball right back to Curley. The Friars held it for the remainder of the third quarter before they fumbled away the ball themselves at the John Carroll 21.

The Patriots could not capitalize, however, as they turned the ball back to the Friars on downs with 6:11 left in the contest. The Curley offense ground the clock down with a nine play 51-yard drive. Clark carried the ball seven times for 43 yards on the march, including the final yard for a touchdown with 1:23 remaining, clinching the victory.

Kwaw said the team had extra motivation to win their opener.

“Last year we took that ‘L’ as a major setback,” he said of the 2019 finale. “I think this year coming into the game we had just one goal, to beat John Carroll. In the first half it may not have looked like it, but we just stayed together and brought it back.”

The John Carroll game is always a special one for Ireton, who is a JC grad and former gridiron standout for the Patriots.

“Obviously its a big win for us,” added Ireton. “It’s great to come back to my high school and get the win over them. Last year this was a game we felt we should have won and we felt like it was kind of taken away from us last year. To walk away at this place, at this time, it’s just a great moment for our guys.”

John Carroll coach Ken Brinkman gave the Friars credit.

“A few mistakes, some typical things you are used to seeing on Friday night, and it was a tale of two halves,” said Brinkman. “We went out strong. They loaded the box, we had a few mistakes, a couple of turnovers and I give them credit. They were able to run the ball on our defense and I think we just got tired and worn down at the end.”

ARCHBISHOP CURLEY 31, JOHN CARROLL 21

AC 7 3 14 7 — 31
JC 14 7 0 0 — 21

1ST Q
JC – London Drummond 2 pass from Antonio Brown (Alex Mullin kick)
JC – Roman Hemby 17 run (Mullin kick)
AC – Kofi Kwaw 13 run (Chris Pond kick)

2ND Q
JC – Connor Martin 7 run (Mullin kick)
AC – Pond 41 FG

3RD Q
AC – Matt Miller 14 pass from Kwaw (Pond kick)
AC – Jamal Avery 9 pass from Kwaw (Pond kick)

4TH Q
AC – Ronald Clark 1 run (Pond kick)