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Bulled over

Middletown falls short in Class 2A title game

Middletown falls short in Class 2A title game

December 02, 2002|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

BALTIMORE - For a team that was playing like it had nothing to lose, the Hereford Bulls had an awful lot on the line.

Hereford entered Friday's Class 2A final at Ravens Stadium as the defending champions, riding a 25-game winning streak and hadn't allowed an opposing player to rush for 100 yards in 22 straight games.

All were in serious danger in the first half against Middletown until coach Steve Turnbaugh threw caution to the wind, opened the game up and rolled to a 20-9 win over the Knights for their second consecutive state title.

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Running back Adam Goloboski led the charge for the Bulls (13-0) with 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns, sending Middletown coach Tim Ambrose home without a state title once again.

At 238-68, Ambrose is the winningest coach in Maryland not to have won a state title.

"I told them before that this is not about me. It's not about what I want," Ambrose said. "If a state title comes from their effort and my coaching, then that's fine. But it's not why I coach.

"But I think they felt the way things were going, they were going to take this home."

For one half of the game, it looked as if the Knights were going to end the title drought, taking a 9-0 lead into the intermission. Then the second half started and the Bulls had awakened.

"They came out ahead of us before the game and were laughing and joking," Middletown receiver John Boyle said. "In the second half, down 9-0, they were ready to play. They were focused."

They were also ready to try anything, including throwing the ball - something the Bulls hadn't done the entire first half.

Their first pass came on the second possession in the second half, a 10-yard slant that got the ball just across midfield. Two plays later, Pat Butt broke free behind the secondary and caught Andy DePaola's pass in stride for a 48-yard touchdown.

"Nobody had ever shut down our running game like Middletown did in the first half," Turnbaugh said. "The consensus was we're down 9-0, we have nothing to lose, so let's throw the ball some in the second half."

In the meantime, the Hereford defense tightened up, too. The Bulls held Middletown to just 11 yards on their first three possessions in the second half, giving their offense an opportunity to get back into the game.

Following a short Middletown punt, Hereford took over at their own 39 yard line at the start of the fourth quarter. It took just nine plays - including three passes for first downs - for the Bulls to find the end zone again and take the lead. Goloboski finished the job, plunging in from the 2.

"We didn't think the passing game would ever win a game for us," Turnbaugh said. "Once Andy got a couple of completions, he got some confidence and the momentum changed."

DePaola finished with 104 yards on 5 of 8 passing.

"I told the coaches it said he had 900 yards this year, but the games I was, I never saw it," Ambrose said. "We didn't cover and he threw the ball where they could catch it."

What looked to be a possible shift back in the momentum for Middletown turned out to be a gamebreaker for the Bulls.

A good kickoff return by Boyle gave Middletown decent field position at their own 36-yard line. Runs by Josh Keeney and Adam Ellison moved the ball across midfield and had Ambrose thinking positive.

"We had just gotten a first down, moved across midfield. I was thinking we were going to take this drive, score and win the game," Ambrose said.

Instead, on first down, Hereford's Bill Rueter got around right end, knocked quarterback Tyler Lushbaugh's pass up in the air and grabbed the interception.

Four plays later, Goloboski again scored from the 2 with 5 minutes, 29 seconds left to close out the scoring.

"From that point on, we were down," Middletown lineman Ryan Cutsail said. "It's hard to come back after something like that."

Rueter saw to it that the Knights did not come back. He sacked Lushbaugh twice on their final drive and forced Middletown to punt with just under three minutes remaining.

Hereford held Keeney, the leading rusher in the state this season, to 98 yards on 19 carries and no touchdowns - the first time this season that Keeney was kept out of the end zone.

Still, Keeney was a factor in Middletown building its first half lead. He had 76 yards in the first half alone, including a 27-yard run that moved the Knights into Hereford territory on the first drive of the game.

Lushbaugh broke two tackles on a bootleg, turning a possible 6-yard loss into a 23-yard gain. Three plays later, Lushbaugh hit David Haertel for a 14-yard touchdown and a 6-0 Middletown lead.

The Knights' defense proved stout in the first half, as well. They stopped both Hereford drives on fourth down, including a fourth-and goal from the 5.

With time running out in the first half, Middletown drove from their own 43 to the Hereford 4 before settling for a 21-yard field goal by Will Gawler.

"We wanted that extra point and we wanted a touchdown at the end of the half," Ambrose said. "But to be with them and leading 9-0 at the half, we were thinking we were on the right side of things."

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