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Leopards drop chances for win

November 15, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

FROSTBURG, Md. - Buddy Orndorff knew fourth-seeded Smithsburg had a chance against top-seeded Beall in their Maryland Class 1A West semifinal football game Friday night. But the Leopards seventh-year head coach never could have imagined that his team wouldn't be forced to punt even once.

Needless to say, Smithsburg blew more than one chance in its 28-7 loss to the host Mountaineers.

"This is the first time in my coaching career that we didn't punt the ball and got beat," Orndorff said. "If you would have told me that we weren't going to punt and lose, I would've taken that bet ... and lost the house."

But it's tough to punt inside the opposition's 20-yard line, and it's downright impossible without having possession of the ball.

Smithsburg (6-5) turned the ball over six times and was 0-for-5 in its red-zone opportunities.

"Without the turnovers, it's a different story. But that's football," Orndorff said. "They didn't stop us. We just fumbled the ball and dropped passes."

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The Moutaineers (8-3) made them pay for it with their ball-control ground game, rushing for 346 yards on 56 carries. Mahlon Harper rushed for 129 yards on 18 carries, including a pair of touchdown runs, Cody Miller ran for 103 yards on 19 carries and David Winner gained 74 yards on 10 carries, including a 43-yard score.

Harper capped Beall's game-opening, 76-yard, 10-play drive with a 12-yard score. After Smithsburg's Brandon White fumbled the ball away on the second play of the ensuing series, Winner ran for his TD and a 14-0 Mountaineers lead on the very next play, with 6:52 left in the first quarter.

The Leopards immediately answered, marching from their 47 to the Beall 18 on six plays, before T.J. Bowser dropped Nathan Steelman's fourth-down pass in the end zone.

After Keith Fowler recovered Harper's fumble at the Beall 40, White made it a 14-7 game four plays later on a 34-yard TD run to begin the second period.

"Smithsburg has a good team, and White's an outstanding back," Beall coach Roy DeVore said. "I knew we were going to have to play well to beat them."

The Leopards fumbled away their final two possessions of the first half, the second coming on a first-and-10 play at the Beall 19. And the Mountaineers capitalized with a six-play, 87-yard scoring drive - fueled by Harper's 66-yard run and punctuated by his 5-yard TD reception from Eric Parker with 16 seconds left in the half - to take a 21-7 lead into the break.

White, who led the Leopards with 122 yards rushing on 21 carries, ran the opening kickoff of the second half 57 yards to the Beall 19. But four plays later, he was stuffed at the line on fourth-and-1 from the 10.

"They were blitzing hard," White said. "They just beat us to the punch and shut us down."

Smithsburg's next two possessions ended with a missed 32-yard field-goal attempt and a four-and-out series at the Beall 20. In between, the Leopards fumbled away two punt returns and Harper completed the scoring with a 1-yard TD run late in the third.

"When it's going your way, it's going your way," Orndorff said. "When it's not, it's not."

The Mountaineers outgained Smithsburg, which was 0-for-9 passing, 393-157 in total offense, including a 136-8 edge in the second half, where the Leopards were held to no first downs.

"We got a good taste of the playoffs," said Orndorff, whose team was making its first postseason appearance since 1994. "Hopefully this set the groundwork for next year. We've got a good group coming back."

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