It's great to win week after week in high school football, especially when your kids make it relatively easy most of the time. But every good football coach knows that sooner or later his guys will get into a dogfight and be faced with having to come from behind.
That's where you start separating the great teams from the good teams.
St. Mary's proved Saturday afternoon at cozy little Weems Whelan Field that it has "great team" potential.
Second-year head coach Brad Best, who has an extensive background in coaching both high school and college football, has been around long enough to not take anything for granted. When you do, that's usually when you get beat.
His Saints came of age Saturday with a scintillating 36-28 victory over Southwestern of Baltimore. The win ran the Saints' record to a perfect 6-0 for the first time in school history.
But more importantly, Best found out his guys can come back.
Southwestern, 1-1 going into the game, had a 14-0 lead after the first period, and the Saints' unbeaten mark was in serious jeopardy.
"They were a very good team, beat us throwing the ball and jumped on us right away," said Best. "We scored to make it 14-6 (Charlie Griffith one-yard TD plunge), but they came right back to make it 20-6.
"To our kids' credit, they never gave up and kept playing hard. We got two more touchdowns in the second period and took the lead 22-20 at the half. Our defensive line got a safety by tackling their quarterback in the end zone to give us the lead, and we held on in the second half."
The second and third Saints' TDs came on a 12-yard pass from Charlie Griffith to Joe Conte and a 25-yard scamper by Charlie Finamore. St. Mary's was able to convert only once on its first three TDs, a two-pointer from Griffith to Mike McClellan following the Finamore score.
In the third period, the Saints upped their lead to 29-20 on a Conte 8-yard run and Griffith kick. Steve Krupinsky went over from the one in the final period and again Griffith kicked it through the uprights to give St.
Mary's a commanding 36-20 lead.
"But (Southwestern) got another one, plus the two-point conversion, with about four minutes to go in the game to make me lose a little more hair," Best said. "It was a really tough game and (Southwestern) coach (Fred) Kaiss (an assistant at Andover for a few years) did a great job with them.
Give them a lot of credit."
St. Mary's will visit Archbishop Spalding (0-4-1) and Archbishop Curley of Baltimore (1-3) in the next two weeks, so an 8-0 record going into the final two weeks is very probable. The Saints close on the road at Class 3A South River (2-3) and arch-rival Severn School (4-2), both of which will be tough games. And that's where Saturday's win over Southwestern could play a part.
The Saints now know they can come back if they get behind against a good club. That's a great thing to know when things get tough.
The Saints, who were 3-7 just a year ago, have learned two very important things about themselves. Number one, they've learned they can win, and number two, they've learned they can do it despite adversity.
Unfortunately, neither Spalding nor Northeast have learned number one, and number two is a serious problem for both. Boy's Latin of Baltimore (1-3) spoiled Spalding's Homecoming Saturday with a 33-0 victory, dropping the Cavs to 0-3-1.
Northeast traveled to James M. Bennett on the Eastern Shore and got hammered, 52-8. It was the winless Eagles' fifth straight loss.
In the county 4A Region IV race, the one-loss club was reduced to three Friday night as Glen Burnie stopped Arundel, 19-14. The Gophers kept pace with county 4A arch-rival Old Mill and independent North County, all with 4-1 records.
Old Mill ripped Chesapeake (0-5), 42-14, while North County squeaked by Southern (3-2), 26-22.
Meanwhile, Queen Anne's joined Arundel at 3-2, losing a 13-12 cliff hanger at South River.
"They scored a touchdown with 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter and went for the two-point conversion, but the run was stopped by (senior defensive back) Kevin Tydings," South River stat man Bob Danton said. "Then Queen Anne's recovered an on-side kick and got off four passes, completing one. But time ran out on 'em."
Kevin Ferguson led the Seahawks with 122 yards and two touchdowns (on runs of 24 and 22 yards) on 16 carries, as Dave Summey's crew tuned up for a Friday night visit to Annapolis (2-3).
Annapolis spoiled homecoming at Broadneck (1-4) with a hard-earned 14-6 victory. Coach Roy Brown and his Panthers still have hopes of winning the county title and a playoff berth.
Arch-rival Severna Park (2-2) has the same ambition after defeating Meade (1-4) Friday night, 29-13. Falcons coach Andy Borland noted afterward that the team they beat is one that "will knock off somebody before it's done."
Borland, of course, was referring to that young Meade team of coach Hayse Henderson.
"I'm pleased with the way the kids played tonight," Henderson said, "and we're going to get better, too."