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Knights point out loss to Rebels

November 04, 2002|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

For the second time in three weeks, it all came down to one play for South Hagerstown.

For the second time in three weeks, the Rebels came up three yards short of a victory.

Having come back from the brink twice Friday night against Middletown - the second on a bullet TD pass from David Miner to Antoine Cooper with 1.3 seconds left in the game - the No. 3 Rebels couldn't convert a two-point conversion and lost to the No. 2 Knights 26-25 in a Monocacy Valley Athletic League game at School Stadium.

That South (6-3, 6-2) had a shot at a game-winning conversion was nothing short of a miracle. After driving the Rebels from their own 31 to the Middletown 25, Miner's next three passes fell incomplete and an intentional grounding penalty backed South up 10 more yards to the 35.

On fourth down, Miner dropped back and fired a pass down the middle of the field that found its way untouched between three Middletown defenders and into Cooper's hands as he crossed the goal line.

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"I had no idea how it was going to feel in my hands," Cooper said. "I was just trying to hold on tight."

"Antoine can catch and David can throw the ball, so I wasn't surprised at all that the ball was delivered," said South coach Greg Kellick. "We told them to keep their eye on the ball because it would probably be tipped. I was surprised that it got through without being tipped."

With no timeouts remaining, South had little time to set up for its conversion attempt. The Rebels set up in a power-I formation, with Miner sprinting out left after the snap. Middletown's Nick Fogle got around the tight end, grabbed Miner's jersey and spun him. Miner didn't go down, but got off a short pass that fell incomplete.

"We practiced the power-I all week for that," Kellick said. "If David gets around end on that, he walks into the end zone and we're here smiling now. The kid made a good play on him."

It was reminiscent of the Rebels' 21-20 loss to Catoctin two weeks ago, when they scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the game only to fall short on the two-point attempt.

One reason Kellick decided to go for the win was knowing that if the game went into overtime, the Rebels would have to find a way to stop Middletown running back Josh Keeney - the Tri-State area's leading rusher who had another dominating performance Friday night.

"We're looking at them getting the ball at the 10-yard line (in overtime), and I don't know if we're going to stop them," Kellick said. "Then we're looking at having to score from the 10. (Going for two) we have a seven-yard advantage."

Keeney ran for 211 yards and all four Middletown touchdowns, including two in the first 10 minutes of the game that almost took South out of the game. The second came one play after South's center snapped the ball over the punter's head, giving the Knights (8-1, 7-1) the ball at the 1-yard line.

"We felt pretty good with those early scores, and they were closing in on themselves. It was getting away from them," said Middletown coach Tim Ambrose. "But we opened the coffin up and breathed some life back in them. Give them the credit for that, though. They're a pretty enthusiastic team."

It took two big plays by Jamel Smith to really get South's enthusiasm cooking. The senior tailback broke off a 45-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to cut the Rebels' deficit in half at intermission.

On Middletown's first drive of the second half, Smith stepped in front of a Tyler Lushbaugh pass on third down and returned the interception 77 yards for a touchdown. Philip Powell added the point after for a 13-12 South lead.

"All the things we didn't want to do, we did," Ambrose said. "Gave up a big run, turned the ball over a couple of times ... that got them right back in the game."

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