On Friday night, there was plenty of excitement around football in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference as most teams opened up their regular season slate of games.
For Leonardtown football, this season marks the beginning of a new era under first-year head coach Justin Cunningham, who on Friday night, made his coaching debut against his former high school at Calvert High.
Playing at home under a pink night sky, the Cavaliers were able to take care of business in the season opener and topped Leonardtown by a final score of 35-0 in a SMAC crossover matchup.
“We had ourselves a great backdrop for great fans, a great community, a great team and a great game,” Calvert head coach Rick Sneade said.
Calvert’s offense scored touchdowns on its first three offensive possessions of the game, all in the first quarter, 36-yard and 16-yard rushes from junior running back Kameron Hawkins and a 63-yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Dylan Barbeiri.
“Obviously this was not the outcome that we wanted or expected,” Cunningham said. “Our guys really worked hard this week and had a good week of practice. As a program we will get better. We are just not at the caliber that Calvert is right now.”
Ten seconds into the second quarter, Calvert senior quarterback Michael Floria found senior Sean Mancini open in the back corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown pass to extend the hosts’ lead to 28-0 by halftime.
“We challenged our guys at halftime, and it was a 28-0 game at the half,” Cunningham said. “Calvert is not 35 points better than us, but we are not experienced enough yet to make it a 21-14 game for us or them. We will get there, it is just a process and everyone has to stay together.”
Calvert (1-0 overall) added a touchdown to its total on Hawkins’ third rushing score of the night, this time from seven yards out with 3 minutes 32 seconds left in the third quarter.
Leonardtown’s offense struggled to gain first downs and sustain drives and did not run a play in Calvert territory until the fourth quarter. The Raiders were able to get the ball inside the red zone about halfway through the fourth, but junior quarterback Matthew Stiffler was sacked on a fourth down play for a turnover on downs.
“I like the effort my guys gave and we will continue to get better,” Cunningham said. “We are going to be a different team now than we will be in Week 7.”
The Cavaliers’ relentless rushing attack totaled 281 yards on 30 carries. Hawkins rushed for a game-high 136 yards on 17 touches, while Barbeiri finished with 6 carries for 124 yards.
“We have a lot of positive energy going,” Sneade said. “It is exciting to go out there and coach football with these kids and these coaches.”
Leonardtown (0-1) totaled just 65 yards of offense in the season opener led by Juvawn Broome with 5 rushes for 31 yards, but Cunningham knows his team is young and lacks experience which they will gain throughout the year.
“The goal and focus is to stay the course and we preach to the guys one play at a time. Everyone seems to have a positive attitude, but we’ll have to learn how to play football,” Cunningham said. “I think we only have four guys that played any type of varsity football last year. The rest of the guys have never played a varsity game, so the game speed is so much different than a scrimmage. You don’t learn it until you play the games.”
The Raiders will look for their first win of the 2019 season on Friday when they host Thomas Stone (0-1 after a 45-6 loss to Huntingtown in Week 1) at 6 p.m.
Calvert is slated to play at Northern (1-0 after a 20-17 win over Sussex Tech of Delaware) at 7 p.m. Friday.