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Hubs 'don't know,' they just go

November 15, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

You could almost call it posturing or posturing.

Confidence is one reason why North Hagerstown's football team has been standing so straight and tall this season.

But another reason could come from the Hubs' flair for the dramatic on offense. You have to face it, North tends not to take the easy way out.

"This team has a habit of playing well with its back against the wall," coach Danny Cunningham has said on more than one occasion this season. The Hubs proved it once again on Friday.

The Hubs took the long way out, executing on late down and long yardage situations with game-busting scoring plays to stun tradition-laden Fort Hill 33-13 in the Maryland Class 2A West semifinals at School Stadium.

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For some reason, North didn't come out of its offensive shell until its shoulder blades stuck against the stucco. Why?

"I don't know," said quarterback Ryan Rau.

"I don't know," said fullback Derrick Keith.

"I don't know," said tailback Rigo Valentin.

"I don't know," said tailback Bryan Slater.

"I don't know," said Cunningham.

The explaination was unanimous but there is still the fact that North got the job done when it counted the most.

The first instance came on North's second possession. Faced with fourth-and-8 at Fort Hill's 34, Rau hit Keith with a screen pass out in the left flat. Keith turned up field and came out of the wallpaper all the way to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

"It's just what we pull out in the big plays," Rau said. "It's not on one play ... it's any play. The line gets out and blocks and anything can happen. I just think we know we have to push it to get to the first down."

Valentin's score just seconds later wasn't as dramatic, coming off an almost routine second-and-3 run after a Fort Hill fumble, but ...

"I can't tell you why, it just happens," he conceded.

Slater joined the party on the first play of the second quarter on a pitch to the right that he cut back inside before running 75 yards on a third-and-5 call.

"The whole game we weren't running any sweeps, I was running through the middle," Slater said. "Once I ran the sweep, I made a couple cuts and the field opened up."

Keith followed with another sweep, this one for 59 yards, on North's very next offensive play - the same call Slater scored on - to give the Hubs a 26-0 lead.

"We play with all heart," Keith said. "We are this year and didn't last year. This team is a family."

The backbreaker came in the fourth quarter when Fort Hill pulled within 26-13. On a third-and-15 when North was in need of first downs to seal the victory, Slater took a pitch around left end and blew past the Sentinels defense to complete a 64-yard scoring run.

"I guess when we get to the first down, we are happy to get it but we aren't stopping there," Slater said.

After all the action, it seems to be the right time for Cunningham to weigh in on the coach's view of North's all-or-nothing-out-of-nowhere style.

"We got to be patient," he offered. "We have some good caliber backs and sometimes they are going to lose ground before they can come out and get a big chunk. The kids played disciplined football."

Sounds simple, but the whole scenario has allowed North to stand head and shoulders above its first 11 opponents.

Of course, there is some other motivation, too.

"It's just hard work," Valentin said. "We have to go out and get it or go home."

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