Spalding football rolls past Loyola; Esbrand-Smith and Harris combine for 6 TDs (VIDEO HERE!)

Spalding running back Shamar Esbrand-Smith (5) tries to break free of Loyola’s Liam Powell during Saturday’s football contest. Esbrand-Smith rushed for 143 yards as the Cavaliers produced 540 yards in a 55-7 rout of the Dons. (photo – Laurie Butts)

by Derek Toney

In a high school football “season” that’s a week-by-week proposition, Archbishop Spalding made the most of its opportunity Saturday.

The Cavaliers routed Loyola Blakefield, 55-7, at Hargarden Field in Towson. Senior running back Shamar Esbrand-Smith rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns for Spalding, and Jordan Harris contributed another three rushing scores.

The Severn school rushed for 401 yards Saturday to improve to 2-0. Spalding is among several MIAA football programs playing an “open season,” where schools can play at their discretion. The MIAA did not provide official league schedules.

After opening with a win at Calvert Hall College, in a hastily arranged match due to Covid-19 postponements last week, Spalding was a juggernaut in its return to Towson Saturday.

“Last week we really didn’t have a complete game plan, having to turnaround in 24 hours, but I thought the kids responded really well,” said Cavaliers coach Kyle Schmitt, whose team won 17-7 over Calvert Hall. “Obviously to have a week to prepare for a team is ideal, and the kids really played well. Their energy was good.”

Spalding (2-0) scored the first 21 points Saturday, capped by Zakee Wheatley’s 80-yard blocked punt return. The Cavaliers rolled the Dons in the second half with touchdowns on five straight possessions.

Spalding finished with 540 yards Saturday.

“There were holes everywhere, our qb had a lot of time in the pocket,” said Esbrand-Smith. “The line did their job.”

The Cavalier offensive front featuring Brian Baucia, Chase Lusk, Jackson Webster, Jim Fitzgerald, John Kauffman and blocking back Aeneas Smith imposed their will on Loyola. Spalding averaged nine yards per play Saturday.

“We saw more explosive plays today,” said Schmitt, who relinquished offensive play calling duties this year. “Explosive plays can get you from 17-7 to 55-7.”

The Cavaliers netted 58 yards in their first three plays Saturday, but came up empty in the red zone (missed field goal). With Esbrand-Smith netting 48 yards, Spalding marched 60 yards in six plays as Esbrand-Smith scored from seven yards.

The Cavaliers took the next possession 83 yards in 12 plays, capped with a Harris three-yard run. Loyola slowed Spalding’s offense with a three-and-out, but the Cavaliers’ special teams switched momentum.

The Dons (1-1) drove to Spalding’s 11 before settling for a field goal. The Cavaliers blocked the kick, and Wheatley picked up the ball and sprinted untouched down the sidelines, putting the visitors up 21-0.

“Coach told me to watch No. 2 because they might try a fake or a pass,” said Wheatley, who’s committed to Penn State University. “I saw the ball get blocked and I just picked it up and ran.”

Spalding led 27-7 at halftime as Esbrand-Smith complimented Lavain Scruggs’ interception with a three-yard touchdown run with 11 seconds remaining in the half. Esbrand-Smith (14 yards) and Harris (one) crossed the goal line to start the second half before Collin Malley broke off a 54-yard touchdown run with 6:23 left in the third to start a running clock.

Cavalier junior quarterback Nick Gutierrez knew the offense would improve, especially practicing daily against Spalding’s defense.

“Our line played really good today, and the running backs hit the holes really hard,” said Gutierrez, who replaced Austin Tutas who transferred to Foster High in Texas for his senior season. “We poured it down on them.”

Loyola’s only score came on Jordan Moore’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Micah Robinson late in the first half. The Dons had a chance for another score before intermission after a Nicholas Dubois’ interception, but Moore (19-of-32, 168 yards) was intercepted on the next play. Spalding scored with 11 seconds left.

Loyola never recovered. The Dons defeated St. Paul’s School, 62-0, last weekend, in their season debut.

“We did good things in spots, we just had untimely turnovers that switched the flow of the game,” said Dons coach Anthony Zeyhoue. “We had a couple of decent kick returns, so it wasn’t all terrible, but certainly not good enough against a team like Spalding.”

Wheatley had an interception to go with his punt block return for score. Junior Zion Pinckney also intercepted a pass as Spalding held Loyola to 190 yards.

“Practice is where it starts, I think the best competition we’ll played this year is going to be in practice,” said Wheatley.

Nick Guiterrez (left), Shamar Esbrand-Smith and Zakee Wheatley helped Archbishop Spalding to an impressive victory Saturday. Wheatley had an interception and returned a blocked field goal attempt 80 yards, Esbrand-Smith scored three touchdowns and Guiterrez passed for 112 yards as the Cavaliers improved to 2-0.

The Cavaliers are scheduled to play Calvert Hall next weekend, but both teams are hoping to play a different opponent after meeting last weekend. Spalding played the Cardinals after its original opponent, Mount St. Joseph, was unable to play because of players testing positive for Covid-19. Calvert Hall was supposed to play St. Mary’s, which also had players test positive and could not play.

“We just got to stay ready, you never now it’s going to be our last moment to play or who will we’re going to play next,” said Gutierrez. “As long as we stick together, I think we’ll be alright.”

Archbishop Spalding 55, Loyola Blakefield 7

Spalding 7 20 21 7 – 55

Loyola 0 7 0 0 – 7

First quarter

Spalding – Shamar Esbrand-Smith 7 run (Cory Butts kick)

Second quarter

Spalding – Jordan Harris 8 run (Butts kick)

Spalding – Zakee Wheatley 80 blocked kick return (Butts kick)

Loyola – Micah Robinson 20 pass from Jordan Moore (Luke Wayson kick)

Spalding – Esbrand-Smith 3 run (kick blocked)

Third quarter

Spalding – Esbrand-Smith 14 run (Butts kick)

Spalding – Harris 1 run (Butts kick)

Spalding – Collin Malley 54 run (Butts kick)

Fourth quarter

Spalding – Hakim Simms 6 run (Butts kick)