Confidence can be a tricky thing in football. When an underdog earns a little confidence early, it can become very dangerous. Likewise, when a favorite comes in with too much confidence, it could fall into a trap.
A little of both dynamics were on display Friday afternoon in Bel Air, as third-ranked Calvert Hall visited John Carroll for a non-conference MIAA football game, and the host Patriots scared the life out of the Cardinals, building a 13-0 halftime lead, before Calvert Hall rallied and escaped with a 14-13 victory.
Calvert Hall (3-1) made its move early in the second half, as the Cardinals came out in a no huddle offense. The first drive ended in a punt, but the Cardinals did generate a few first downs and changed the pace of the game.
On their second possession of the half, the Cardinals finally broke through.
Senior quarterback Kenji Bahar completed five straight passes to move his team from its own 45 to the John Carroll one. From there, junior Tim Massey plowed into the end zone for the first Cardinal score.
Later in the third quarter, John Carroll had a ball snapped over the head of junior quarterback Kurt Rawlings, resulting in a 26 yard loss that pinned the Patriots on their own five and ultimately forcing them to punt from their end zone. This led to Calvert Hall starting its next drive inside of JC territory at the 45.
On the first play of the drive, Massey, who rushed for 51 yards, broke off a 20-yard gain to bring the third quarter to a close. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Bahar found his 6-foot-5 wideout Lawrence Cager in the end zone for a 25-yard TD pass, with 11:53 to play. Following Peter Ferrara’s second successful extra-point kick, Calvert Hall finally got a lead, at 14-13.
“They just said go out there and do what you do best, go up and catch the ball, and I scored the touchdown for us,” said Cager, who caught five balls for 59 yards. “Everybody blocked and they just sent me on a go route. Kenji trusted in me, threw it up and I caught the ball for a touchdown.”
Cager said the Cardinals definitely learned a lesson through the tough challenge they faced.
“We can’t take any team for granted. We came in here thinking this was going to be a cake walk. They are a MIAA B team and we should just walk all over them. We had a talk at halftime and we told our leaders, we have to get these guys up, because anybody can be beaten.”
Down the stretch, both teams forced and recovered fumbles and both teams punted once. This led to one final opportunity for John Carroll, which attempted a hail mary pass, from the Calvert Hall 49, on the final play of the game. On the play, Rawlings lateraled to Christian Scott, who threw a spiral deep down the middle of the field. Junior Alex Rasmussen got a hand on it near the goal line, but so did a pair of Cardinal defenders and the ball fell incomplete, allowing Calvert Hall to survive.
“I’m proud of my staff. I’m certainly proud of these kids. The kids dug deep when they had to,” said Calvert Hall head coach Donald Davis. “Our staff made the necessary adjustments to slow a very game John Carroll team, but I need to do a better job and I’ll go back to work as soon as we get back to school.”
Prior to the game, John Carroll coach Keith Rawlings talked about getting on top early and putting some pressure on the heavily favored Cardinals and his team did just that.
The Patriots (2-2) received the opening kick and promptly drove 79 yards in 12 plays with Rawlings connecting with Rasmussen for a 30-yard touchdown pass, with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Rawlings delivered a high, deep ball and Rasmussen went up high to pull the catch away from two Cardinal defenders in the end zone.
After forcing a Calvert Hall punt, the Patriots took over on their own 22 and began moving again. Rawlings, who completed 18-of-30 passes for 156 yards, was 5-for-5 on drive, as JC drove to the Calvert Hall 20 before settling for a 39-yard field goal by Steve Cutchin.
Cutchin added a 31-yard field goal later in the second quarter, allowing John Carroll to take a 13-0 lead to the half. The second field goal was setup by a Rasmussen interception that initially went for a 56-yard pick six. But, the Patriots were called for holding on the return, bringing back the touchdown.
Coach Rawlings tried to will his team to the win, as it started to breakdown under Calvert Hall’s late pressure, but in defeat he was very proud.
“It was amazing. I couldn’t be more proud of these young men. They battled; they battled with a powerhouse,” said Rawlings who is in the first year of his second stint as John Carroll head coach. “We talked to the kids about believing and in life you have got to believe. God brought these young men in this situation and they believed in each other and I think that was the key.”
NO. 3 CALVERT HALL 14, JOHN CARROLL 13
CH 0 0 7 7 — 14
JC 7 6 0 0 — 13
JC – Rasmussen 30 pass from Rawlings (Cutchin kick)
JC – Cutchin 39 FG
JC – Cutchin 31 FG
CH – Massey 1 run (Ferrara kick)
CH – Cager 25 pass from Bahar (Ferrara kick)