The rivalry between Calvert Hall and Archbishop Curley cannot be seen only in the intensity of the players on the field, but also on the faces that line the sides of the field that represent generations of former players who return each year to see the game.
Recently dubbed the Alumni Cup, the first of two of these important league matchups serves as an annual reunion for those former players. Yesterday, it was the Curley faithful who went home happy as the No. 3 Friars handed the No. 2 Cardinals their first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association loss, 3-1.
After scoring midway through the first half, Curley continued to send players forward, rather than sit back to try to protect the lead. Curley coach Barry Stitz said the plan was to attack Calvert Hall, to make the Cardinals play defense, and his players did a solid job maintaining their focus in the emotionally charged game.
"It was a very hard-fought game, but I certainly don't think it was the prettiest game all year," said Stitz, whose team bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Mount St. Joseph on Wednesday. "We are scoring a lot of goals, so we don't want to change up the way we play, especially with a lot of time left. But the key has been defense, and we have been feeding off of that."
Both teams came out tight, but Curley (10-2, 5-2) took the lead with 22:36 left in the first half when Anthony Longo's cross was knocked into the goal by a Calvert Hall defender. Curley struck again with 25 minutes left in the game, when Aaron Ligon's point-blank shot was stopped by goalie Kyle Wittman (nine saves), but Dan Merryman knocked in the loose ball for a 2-0 Friars lead.
The play was set up on a free kick by Dustin Dzwonkowski from 15 yards out that split two Calvert Hall defenders.
"I was just at the right place at the right time," Merryman said. "The goalie punched it out, but no one was marking me. This was the first time in four years we won [the Alumni Cup.] The atmosphere was incredible."
Calvert Hall (7-3-1, 6-1-1) pulled within one on an unassisted goal by Chris Williams, who found the far corner from about 20 yards out. However, Curley put the game out of reach when B.J. Quigley converted a penalty kick after Bash Kamara was fouled inside the penalty area at the end of a quick counterattack.
The Friars outshot the Cardinals 12-7 in the game.
"I thought we came out and played hard, but a couple of finishes weren't there for us. They got one opportunity and banged it in. It's a cruel game that way," Calvert Hall coach Andy Moore said. "There was a lot of emotion out here today, and I can't fault my guys for a lack of effort."