No. 4 Spalding unable to solve Good Counsel again, suffers first loss

Spalding’s Zakee Wheatley (3) pulls down this pass – over Good Counsel’s Nicolas Ware – for a touchdown during the second quarter of Friday’s non-league football contest. It was the only score for the fourth-ranked Cavaliers, who missed on several other opportunities in a 21-7 loss to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference powerhouse at Whittles Field in Anne Arundel County. (photo – Laurie Butts)

by Derek Toney

After last year’s thrilling game against Our Lady of Good Counsel – which ended up being a “mirage” – Archbishop Spalding High football team was confident of a different ending in the rematch Friday evening.

Instead, the Cavaliers were again left thinking what might have been. Good Counsel defeated No. 4 Spalding, 21-7, in front of a huge audience at Whittles Field in Severn. Sy’Veon Wilkerson rushed for 120 yards for Good Counsel (3-1 overall), ranked No. 4 in the latest state media poll.

A superb defensive effort from Spalding (3-1) was trumped, albeit barely, by the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference powerhouse which bend and broke the Cavaliers’ potent offense. The seven points Friday were the fewest scored in a Spalding home match since 2017 (17-6 loss to McDonogh).

“I don’t know if we’ll see better this year. They’re long,” said Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt, whose team was 5th in the state Top 25 poll. “They reminded a little of Calvert Hall last year, a real good front four.”

The Falcons’ front, anchored by Big 10 commits Mitchell Melton (Ohio State University) and Kris Jenkins (Michigan) at the ends constantly pressured Spalding quarterback Austin Tutas. Tutas (27-of-49, 209 yards) had to move out the pocket and or throw the ball quickly.

The latter proved cumbersome as well as Good Counsel’s defensive backs, led by Boston College commit Jason Scott and Jalen McNair, layered Cavalier receivers.

“There wasn’t a lot of free access stuff out there,” said Schmitt. “They had a good beat on us.”

Last season, Spalding put up 35 points against the Montgomery County squad. The game, tied at 35, was stopped with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left in regulation because of lightning. Officials from both schools decided to cancel game.

The Cavaliers continued having a good pulse on Good Counsel’s defense Friday, with one stark difference. Spalding reached Falcon territory on each of its first nine drives, but only produced a Tutas’ 18-yard touchdown pass to Zakee Wheatley in the second quarter.

The Cavaliers trailed 14-7 at halfitme as Tutas fumbled after being sacked by Melton and Ronnell McCorn returned the ball 53 yards for a touchdown late in the half. Spalding missed two field goals in the first 24 minutes.

The Cavaliers took their first possession of the second half from their 28-yard line to Good Counsel’s 1. The Falcons stuffed Spalding on three run attempts, and Tutas’ quick pop pass to the middle of the end zone was tipped away, ending the drive.

Schmitt took the blame for his squad’s red zone malfunctions.

“We work pretty hard at that, maybe not hard enough,” said Schmitt, whose team finished with 5 yards rushing. “I don’t know if I had a good enough plan tonight for that area. I don’t think our plan in the open field going up and down was bad.

I thought we’d be able to move the ball. I thought we’d match up better up front and I don’t think we did tonight. I think we’ll get there, but it was a concern the way they got after us up front at times.”

Outside of Wilkerson’s 46-yard touchdown in the first half, Spalding’s defense was brilliant Friday. The Cavaliers allowed 234 yards, seven first downs and forced four turnovers.

Good Counsel broke a big play in the fourth as Miles Cross hauled in a Chase Williams pass and ran deep into Cavalier territory. Junior defensive back Jayon Venerable stripped the ball from Cross and Jourdin Brown recovered at Spalding’s 13.

The Cavaliers advanced to Good Counsel’s 40, but Tutas was intercepted by Harold Miles, who returned the ball to Spalding’s 20. Lejay Hatcher went into the end zone on the next play, putting Good Counsel up two scores with 6:18 left in regulation.

“We really wanted this one. We were thinking how we tied them last year and we prepped really hard,” said Spalding senior linebacker and Delaware State commit Jalin Justice. “We played physical and fast.”

Sophomores Lavin Scruggs and Kellan Wyatt each recorded interceptions for Spalding, and Venerable, who’s committed to Maryland, finished with seven tackles. Senior Julian Amoako recovered a fumble.

Though missed an opportunity to beat one of the state’s elite programs, Schmitt expects Spalding to bounce back. The Cavaliers have non-league matches with Malvern Prep (PA) and Virginia’s Life Christian Academy before opening MIAA A Conference play against Gilman School (Oct. 11).

“It’s one of those games you learn from…you hate to lose in front of a great crowd on a great night, but that’s how it works,”  said Schmitt. “It’s disappointing for us, but we got a lot to work on. The kids are unfazed, I think they’ll bounce back and keep it going.”

Good Counsel 21, No. 4 Archbishop Spalding 7

Good Counsel 7 7 0 7 – 21

Spalding 0 7 0 0 – 7

First quarter

Good Counsel – Sy’Veon Wilkerson 46 run (Vincent Errigo kick)

Second quarter

Spalding – Zakee Wheatley 17 pass from Austin Tutas (Cory Butts kick)

Good Counsel – Ronnell McCorn 53 fumble return (Errigo kick)

Fourth quarter

Good Counsel – Lejay Hatcher 20 run (Errigo kick)