The yards didn't come in droves last night for Spalding as they had earlier in the season. But the Cavaliers came up with the big plays when they needed them, and perhaps more important, they learned they can still have success when the game is tight.
Quarterback Casey Amsler threw for a touchdown and ran for another and Spalding forced five turnovers as it defeated visiting St. John's-Prospect Hall, 21-6, in an MIAA game.
The Cavaliers (5-0, 2-0) entered the game winning by an average margin of 32.5 points and had racked up nearly 10 yards per carry. In what figured to be their biggest test to date, they kept the dynamic offense of the Vikings (3-1, 2-1) out of the end zone for the entire second half.
"We're going to take the momentum from this game and keep rolling," said Amsler. "We knew St. John's was good. We saw them on film and they were a pretty explosive team. We held together as a unit and got the stops when we needed to."
There was no bigger stop than late in the fourth quarter, with the Vikings trailing 21-6. Quarterback J.P Traylor (19-of-26 passing, 214 yards) led St. John's to the Spalding 1 with less than three minutes left. But Spalding buckled down, twice stopping Traylor on keeper plays and then chasing him out of the pocket and forcing incompletions on third and fourth down.
"Even though they made two big plays to get down to the 1, they didn't score," Spalding linebacker Matt Cassilly. "You've got to keep playing through the next play. We pretended like each play was the last play of our year."
The game unfolded much differently than last season's meeting between the two teams, when they combined for more than 800 yards of total offense in a 47-38 Spalding victory. The Cavaliers scored on an 85-yard fumble return by Tom Bennington on the Vikings' first drive and then Amsler added a nine-yard run at the start of the second quarter to put his team up 14-0.
The Vikings scored their lone touchdown on a four-yard pass from Traylor to Randal Smedley to cut the deficit down to 14-6 with less than a minute before halftime. St. John's unsuccessfully attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and the Cavaliers started at their 46 for what proved to be a game-altering drive.
It took only six plays for Spalding to reach the end zone, as Amsler connected with Justin Mullinix-Hughes on an 18-yard touchdown strike to give the Cavaliers a 21-6 lead.
"That's a coach's dream, those types of drives, because you know the other team is going to be like, 'Oh man, they scored.' And the team that just scored is like, 'Oh yes we scored,' " Spalding Coach Mike Whittles said. "That's just a big, big play for any team to be able to score like that at the end of the half."