A perfect ending

North routs South to cap unbeaten season

North routs South to cap unbeaten season

November 08, 2003|by MARK KELLER

Fans and foes of the North Hagerstown football team should have paid closer attention to Hubs coach Danny Cunningham in the preseason.

The third-year coach knew there was something special with his team in 2003 when he said, "We may be a year away from 9-1 or 10-0, but it could happen."

On Friday night, it happened. The Hubs completed the first unbeaten season in the school's 47-year history with a 41-0 victory over South Hagerstown in the Hagerstown Gridiron Championship Classic at School Stadium.


"I've been here for 0-10 and I've been here for 10-0," Cunningham said. "I tell you, 10-0 feels a whole lot better."

The Hubs locked up much more than a perfect season with Friday's win. They won the first MVAL Antietam Conference title with a 6-0 record, they took home the trophy for the city championship and guaranteed themselves at least one home game in the Maryland Class 2A West playoffs on Friday.

The Hubs will be the No. 2 seed in the regional playoffs, finishing .10 behind South Carroll. North will most likely face Fort Hill in the first round of the playoffs.

"We never talked about the playoffs. The only thing we talked about was this game," said North running back Bryan Slater, who led the Hubs with 175 yards rushing and three touchdowns. "I couldn't wait for this game to be over so we could start talking about the playoffs."

It took the Hubs just 13 seconds to get all the points they needed Friday night as Leon Finley returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 North lead.

"They take advantage of their opportunities, and that set the tone right off the bat," South coach Greg Kellick said. "No one has really run one back on us this year, but they hit that one."

After forcing a Rebels punt, Slater broke free on a third-and-10 play, going 66 yards to the South 8. A personal foul penalty on Miner moved the ball to the 4 and Rigo Valentin punched it in two plays later for a 14-0 lead.

From there, the story was the North defense. The Rebels were limited to just two first downs and 33 yards of offense in the first half as they stifled every South attempt to run around the ends.

"We know Miner is dangerous. The key was for us to stay wide," said North defensive end John Kline. "We had to not bite on his move and keep him in the pocket and let the linebackers and linemen do the rest."

North held the Rebels to 64 yards and just five first downs on the night. South averaged nearly 27 points a game through the first seven weeks of the season, but scored just once in the last three games.

"That's one of the things that has stumped us. We have not moved the ball at all the last three weeks," Kellick said. "All of a sudden Smithsburg shuts us out, we score in the last 11 seconds against Brunswick and tonight we get shut out big time."

Slater made sure there would be no chance for the Rebels (3-7, 2-4) to climb back into the game. On a fourth-and-14 play early in the second quarter, Slater completed a halfback pass to Danny Zamora at the South 1, then capped the drive with a 1-yard run.

"I think that pass really kind of broke their backs early in the game," Cunningham said.

On North's next drive, Slater broke off a pair of 15-yard runs, the second for a score that gave the Hubs a 27-0 halftime lead.

North broke the Rebels' year-old record for most points scored by a team in the city game and the largest margin of victory. South won last year's game, 39-0.

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