NORTH BALTIMORE - The third time was a charm. So was the fourth, which goes to show that, with practice comes progress.
And Calvert had lots of practice here Friday night working its onside kicking game.
Michael Smith's nubber to start the game was recovered by North Baltimore. But the Senecas kept trying the onside approach - five more times in the first half.
Of course, the only way you get to try is by scoring and Calvert did plenty of that in bouncing the Tigers 49-12.
"Anybody watching film knows we rarely kick deep," Calvert coach Todd Fox said after his club improved to 3-4 overall. More important, the Senecas are 3-1 in Midland Athletic League play to remain part of a four-way tie for first place in the league's final season.
"We started (the short-kick game) about four weeks ago and we'll continue to do that," he said. "That's just our aggressive approach to kicking the ball. It takes a lot of work for the other team (to prepare)."
It was up to the Calvert defense to establish the tone for the offense. North Baltimore advanced to the Seneca 7 before a penalty and a sack of quarterback Lane Bishop by senior Marcus Somers ended the threat.
Later, Drew Ritzler intercepted a Bishop pass at the Calvert 10 to stop another threat.
"That's been our problem - we haven't been finishing our drives," North Baltimore coach Greg Bishop said. "We get into the red zone and then stub our toe with a penalty, a miscommunication or some other type of mistake and it hurts us."
The Ritzler pick set up the game's first score as Calvert drove 73 yards in seven plays. The capper was Tyler Long's 36-yard scoring pass to Dan Reineke. Long ran for the extras for an 8-0 first-quarter lead.
Another big defensive play came when Long and Ritzler sandwiched NB runner Taylor Bishop and forced a fumble that became a turnover at the Seneca 27.
From there, Calvert took command with three touchdowns in a little less than three minutes.
Austin Ball, who broke the Tiger defense for 242 yards on 22 carries, sprinted away for a 73-yard score on the first snap as Calvert went ahead 15-0 with 9:14 left in the half.
Reineke then recovered the onside kick at the Tiger 43. It was another one-play score as Long hit Reineke over the middle. Reineke's run off a side-winder PAT snap was successful to make it 23-0 with 9:05 showing.
Donavon Stith pounced on another onside kick and the Senecas were on the run again. This time, they needed six plays, but the result was the same as Adam Recker powered in from the 4.
"We're having fun on special teams," Fox said. "We're working hard at it and taking care of business."
A fake punt was part of the special-team package as front-man Long went 25 yards for a first down on Calvert's final possession of the half. Long took it in from 31 yards out a moment later to cap the Senecas' 36-0 burst.
The two teams traded scores in the third period as Ball raced 47 yards on the first snap of the second half for Calvert and the Tigers countered with Lane Bishop's 15-yard TD toss to Sean Watson.
When Recker scored on an 11-yard run with 6:10 to go, Fox had Long take a knee on the PAT for a 49-6 advantage. The plan was to try to score 55 points as a tribute to Raymond Stearns, a 16-year math and science teacher at Calvert who died Tuesday at his home.
"It's been a tough week emotionally and mentally for our kids, going through what they went through in losing a beloved teacher in Mr. Stearns," Fox said. "They asked me on Tuesday saying, 'Coach, we want to score 55 points; Mr. Stearns was 55-years-old."
In the end, Lane Bishop's 6-yard run with 3:12 left closed the scoring. Things were a little dicey between the two clubs from there as Calvert took its shot at 55 but came up shore as time ran out.
"For kids, they were looking for a way to get to that point," Fox said. "And with (North Baltimore's) offense, the best in the league statistically coming in, we thought we may need 55 points to beat this team.
"At the end, every single one of our kids was reaching for 55 points," he said. "We're bummed that it didn't happen, but I'm glad we kept fighting to the end playing football."