Unlike it’s first meeting with Calvert Hall, No. 2 Archbishop Curley was able to dodge a couple of early bullets in its rematch with the top-ranked Cardinals, on an 80-degree October afternoon, Wednesday in East Baltimore. From there the Friars erupted for three first half goals, propelling themselves to an impressive 3-1 MIAA A Conference win.

Combined with Saturday’s win over then top-ranked Mount St. Joseph, Curley has put itself in the driver’s seat in the tight battle for one of the conference’s top two seeds.

In the earlier meeting between these league powers, Calvert Hall (12-3-1, 10-3-1) scored in the opening minute and rode that momentum to a 2-1 victory on its home turf. Wednesday, the Cardinals nearly struck for two early goals as Zach Urbanski volleyed a header over the net from deep inside the box, in the third minute, and James Rosa was denied on a diving save by Curley keeper Ben Gentry, 20 seconds later.

The Friars (14-3-2, 9-2-1) stayed composed and soon began to dominate possession and put heavy pressure on the Cardinals back line, before finally breaking through with 31 minutes, 29 seconds to play in the opening half.

Senior Nick Richardson triggered the play with a long throw-in from the left side, which found a wide open Dylan Poetzel in the center of the box. Unmarked, Poetzel simply volleyed a header inside the far post to give his club a 1-0 lead.

“Richie threw a long header and it just went right to me,” said Poetzel of the opening goal. “I just flicked it in.”

Energized, the Friars kept up the pressure with a flurry of opportunities and made it 2-0 with a score from senior Dylan Holy, less than four minutes later.

Poetzel, also a senior, began the play by bouncing a low shot from the left corner that was cleared off the far post by a Cardinal defender, back into the center of the box, where Holy zipped a low shot inside the left post.

Curley nearly scored three more times in the next 10 minutes before getting its final goal with a blast off the foot of senior Brenden Hollingsworth, from 22 yards, with an assist from junior Brandon Knapp.

According to Poetzel, the Friars readied themselves for a fast start.

“We knew they were the No. 1 team coming in and we just knew we had to come out ready to play,” said Poetzel. “We scored early and didn’t stop from there.”

Curley continued to have the better of the play throughout the second half, but was not as aggressive in going to the goal, with the clock clearly in its favor. Senior Ben Alexander allowed the Cardinals to avoid the shutout when he scored on a header, inside the right post, on a ball played in by junior Jake Saudek.

“Outside the first five minutes, the first 10 minutes, I thought it was our best, complete game of the year,” said Curley coach Barry Stitz. “We scored some good goals. We had a ton of chances and thought we played pretty good the second half as well. We didn’t sit back on the lead. We kept attacking and we limited their chances. We didn’t give them a chance to gain some momentum.”

Despite the result Curley remains in third place in the conference with 28 points, three points back of Calvert Hall (31) and one back of No. 3 Mount St. Joseph (29), which tied Gilman, 1-1, on Wednesday. Curley, however, has played two less league games than Calvert Hall and one less than St. Joe, giving it the opportunity to play its way to the top seed. The Friars still have two games left with No. 9 Gilman as well as one game each with Archbishop Spalding and St. Paul’s, and they will be favored to gain the necessary points to move into the top position by season’s end.

“This is a huge win for us. Coming in, we were even with them on ties and losses, so getting this we control our own destiny,” said Holy. “If we win out, we should be the No. 1 seed and that is big for us to get an extra day of rest.”

According to Hollingsworth, the Friars are not planning to take anything for granted.

“Gilman is going to be a tough team to beat,” said Hollingsworth. “They beat McDonogh 2-0. Those should be good games.”

Stitz had similar thoughts.

“Don’t waist today’s win and Saturday’s win and lose a game, maybe against some teams that are a little bit lower in the standings,” said Stitz. “Having said that, Spalding is playing much better. We’ve got Gilman twice, and Gilman is right in the thick of things. They have been playing good ball. So, in our league, especially if teams are on good runs, no game is easy.”

Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand felt his squad has had better performances.

“I was disappointed in our effort today,” said Zinkand. “We had a few chances early and didn’t capitalize and that can’t happen on the road. We didn’t defend well enough or create enough on the offensive end to win. Curley wanted it more today.”

In Irvington, St. Joe (10-2-2, 9-2-2) grabbed a 1-0 lead on Gilman (8-3-4, 6-3-3), in the second minute of the second half, on a goal by Jake Mazzei, but the resilient Greyhounds got an equalizer from Joe Melancon, with 15 minutes left in regulation, and that is the way it stayed through a pair of overtimes. Gilman is tied for fourth-place in the conference with No. 4 McDonogh (7-6, 21 points), which defeated St. Paul’s, 3-0, on Monday, with single goals from Mason Christian, Oliver Abramson and Tait Thorne

Another key game in the playoff chase took place at Loyola Blakefield on Wednesday, as the host Dons got a goal from Tommy Dendrinos to defeat John Carroll, 1-0. The victory pushed Loyola (5-9, 15 points) in front of the Patriots (4-9-1, 13 points) in the chase for the sixth and final playoff position.

Curley will visit Spalding on Friday afternoon, while Calvert Hall will return home to face St. Joe in another huge contest. Gilman will host McDonogh on Friday. Both Curley and Gilman will play three games next week, including two against each other.

Calvert Hall               0  1  —  1
Archbishop Curley   3  0  —  3
CH-Alexander; AC-Poetzel, Hollingsworth, Holy.
ASSISTS: CH-Saudek; AC-Richardson, Poetzel, Knapp.
SAVES: CH-Cooper 7; AC-Gentry 3; Wdzieczkowski 2.