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Perfection reaching Classic level

November 07, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

The North Hagerstown football team is having a year to remember. South Hagerstown is simply out to give the Hubs one game they will never forget.

When the Hubs and Rebels take the field for the 47th time tonight at School Stadium in the Hagerstown Gridiron Championship Classic, North will be trying to become the first county team since St. James in 1995 to finish the regular season with a perfect record.

The Rebels, meanwhile, are taking the whole thing like the 1972 Miami Dolphins. South is the only city school to complete a season undefeated, pulling off the feat in 1962.

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"If they go undefeated, everybody's going to be talking about them, and rightfully so," South coach Greg Kellick said. "They'll be remembered like our team from 1962 is remembered. On the other hand, if we can beat them, we'll be remembered as the team that knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten."

It's been a complete reversal of fortune for the two city teams from that of a year ago. Last year, the Rebels had a playoff berth locked up entering the North-South game, while the Hubs were left to play for pride.

This time around, the Hubs are trying to secure home games for the Class 2A West playoffs and complete an undefeated season, while South plays the pride card.

Still, the Hubs aren't focusing on the playoffs just yet.

"Most of the talk has been about finishing the season strong," North coach Dan Cunningham said. "The playoffs have been brought up here and there, but that's down the road. This week is all about South. We're just focused on beating them and finishing healthy."

North (9-0) is having one of those magical seasons that only come along ... well, in the case of the Hagerstown teams, once every 47 years. Therefore, in preparing for their biggest rival, Cunningham has no plans for messing with the recipe that's worked thus far.

"We're going to stick to the basics, stick to our gameplan," Cunningham said. "We don't need to do anything crazy or off the wall. What you see is what you get with us."

What the Rebels will get from the Hubs is a steady dose of their "three-headed monster" in the backfield - running backs Rigo Valentin, Bryan Slater and Derrick Keith.

The Hubs also showed they could put the ball in the air, too, as evidenced by backup quarterback Robbie Thompson's four touchdown passes last week against Smithsburg.

"They've got three nice running backs, but they've had great running backs in the past," Kellick said. "They've got a quarterback who can throw, but they've had good quarterbacks in the past. What they're doing this year is they're working as a team. Everyone knows their role and they're playing that role."

Kellick said for South (3-6) to beat the Hubs, the Rebels cannot offer any assistance. That means no penalties, no fumbles, no interceptions.

"Everything is going right for them this year, like it did for us last year," Kellick said. "You're going along and the other team makes a mistake, Suddenly, the game is in your control. That happens against good teams, so you can't have the mistakes."

North's defense has withstood every challenge placed before it this season and is now charged with containing South quarterback David Miner, an athlete Cunningham said "can control the whole ballgame if he wishes."

"Miner's definitely a concern. Any time you go into a game with South, you have to look at their weapons. He's definitely their biggest weapon," Cunningham said.

Both teams have obvious reasons for wanting to win this game this season. For North, it's the perfect end to a perfect season and going into the playoffs on a high note. For South, it's playing spoiler to that perfect season and ending a disappointing year with a victory.

Either way, the Hubs' season will go on at least one more week, and Kellick will be there to lend support to the cross-town rival.

"I think it's great for North High and for the community that they're going to the playoffs and I'll be rooting for them to bring back a state title," Kellick said. "But we still want to get this one win from them."

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