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Hubs wreck Leopards' day

October 24, 1998|By MARK KELLER

SMITHSBURG - It had been four years since Smithsburg had won its homecoming game, and coach Buddy Orndorff was hoping his team could buck the trend this season.

He talked to the Leopards all week about turning things around and getting a big win against a county rival in front of the biggest crowd of the year.

But instead, Smithsburg made North Hagerstown feel at home, committing three huge turnovers that killed promising drives to help the Hubs squeak out a 21-16 Monocacy Valley Athletic League win Saturday.

"The thing about it is, we self-destruct, short of the Redskins, more than any other team around," Orndorff said. "They've been up and down all year long."

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"Up and down'' accurately summed up the game for both teams. And in many cases, one big up was immediately followed by a huge down. In the final 2 minutes, 30 seconds of the game alone, Smithsburg (2-6, 1-6) rode an emotional rollercoaster.

On the up side, Erik Wiech intercepted a Jamere Burnett pass and returned it to the Smithsburg 39-yard line with 2:30 left and the Leopards down five.

Two plays later, North's Tanner Cross picked off a pass by Kevin Lowe.

The Smithsburg defense held, however, and forced North (2-6, 2-5) to punt with 54 seconds to play. But a Smithsburg rusher fell into Cross and was flagged for roughing the kicker, giving the Hubs a first down and enabling them to run out the clock.

"This is the kind of game these kids needed," said North coach Glenn Cross. "We've been in a lot of close games and lost. We needed to get into a close game and win."

In the first quarter, North tried its best to be hospitable to the Leopards on their homecoming. They fumbled the ball away twice in the first six minutes, the second resulting in a 47-yard return for a touchdown by Lowe. George Coyle scored the two-point conversion for an 8-0 Smithsburg lead.

North struck back quickly in the second as quarterback Burnett scored on a 13-yard option keeper and Tanner Cross ran in the two-point try.

On the first play of Smithsburg's next drive, Darryl Clopper fumbled and North's Kyle Doucette recovered at the Leopards' 28. Four plays later, Burnett kept the ball on the option for a 14-yard touchdown, and within 34 seconds, the Hubs gained a 15-8 lead.

Burnett had a hand in North's other score, connecting with Reggie Dawson for a 22-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. All told, Burnett rushed for 141 yards, threw for 40 and added 16 yards on special teams.

"He's having fun and he's happy," Cross said of Burnett, who moved to quarterback earlier in the season when North's first two playcallers went down with injuries. "He's doing what he has to do to be successful."

The Leopards drove 47 yards in eight plays - all runs by Clopper, including a 2-yard touchdown burst - to pull within five with 6:50 to go.

"One day, they'll show up and play 48 minutes of offense and defense," Orndorff said. "Then they'll be mad that they didn't do it all year.

"They refuse to understand they're a good team.''

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