Quarterback Evan Fochtman helps Spalding grind out a victory over Riverdale Baptist

Less than a minute remained in the fourth quarter, and Spalding needed a fourth-down conversion. Two yards would all but seal a season-opening win. Anything less would give the ball back to Riverdale Baptist’s offense, which had shown it could score quickly — and in fact seemed unwilling to score any other way.

Cavaliers quarterback Evan Fochtman took the handoff, but a pile of linemen merged in front of him, his way littered with big-bodied stumbling blocks. Then he was airborne, hurtling over the mess and into safety. It was a first down for the Cavaliers — one that sealed a 33-27 win in Upper Marlboro over host Riverdale Baptist, which had not lost since 2012.

Fochtman hadn’t started Saturday’s game, and he expected junior Chris Powell to play most of the contest. Fochtman and Powell were set to split time as they tried to fill the hole in the Spalding backfield left by quarterback Zach Abey.

The sophomore thought he might get a series, two if he was lucky. What he found instead was running room, and seemingly an extra gear that propelled him through shrinking holes.

“We felt like Evan gave us a spark,” Spalding Coach Kyle Schmitt said. “So we went with him the whole second half.”

Fochtman rushed 10 times for 107 yards and scored Spalding’s final two touchdowns — one on a seven-yard rush before the extra point that tied the game with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the other on a 22-yard dash that put the Cavaliers up a score with five minutes to play.

“He’s very fast and brings a lot of fire to the field,” said Spalding running back Rylan Sweetney, who rushed for 83 yards on 23 carries. “It opened a lot of things up.

“When we have that double threat, it opens everything up.”

Strong rushing performances from Fochtman, Sweetney and running back Josh Chase steadied the Cavaliers through a game full of season-opening jitters and the chaos that accompanied them.

The teams combined for 24 penalties, most of them encroachment or false starts. They weathered six combined turnovers, including four fumbles, two lost by each side. Big plays also were common, as Riverdale scored three of its four touchdowns on passing plays of 20 yards or more.

The Crusaders’ Amir Hall threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns, but Fochtman and the Spalding ground game consistently ran through defenders to quickly end Riverdale’s hopes for a second straight undefeated season.

“I was just trying to help my team the most that I can,” Fochtman said. “I didn’t know I’d be in, thought maybe one series I’d be in.

“But the quarterback run was there, and I’m the guy for that, so they left me in.”

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