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Weather or not, Hubs try to rain on Cavs

November 21, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The North Hagerstown Hubs are becoming huge Lou Scally fans this week.

While most playoff teams would be oohing and ahhing over game films and big hits, Scally's five-day forecast on the local TV weather will get an impromptu wave if he says one word for tonight.

Rain.

No slight chances of rain. The real thing. It's not that North likes wearing wet uniforms, but it could help the Hubs' fortunes in the Maryland Class 2A West football final against pass-happy South Carroll.

"We want a mudder," North coach Dan Cunningham said. "The more rain the better."

That's because it will be a Swanson night for the Hubs ... and that doesn't mean TV dinners.

It means T.J. Swanson, South Carroll's quarterback who led the Cavaliers to the top seed in the West region. The senior added emphasis by throwing for four touchdowns and running for two others while playing just the first half in last week's 48-14 victory over Walkersville.

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"We are going to see a very explosive South Carroll team that will give us some tough matchups," Cunningham said. "We have to look at Swanson and we have not seen many like him. He's a playmaker. They are a passing team with five wide (receivers) and an empty backfield."

South Carroll's offense can be compared to the one run by the St. Louis Rams in the NFL or Martinsburg in local high school ranks. It's wide-opened, quick hitting and fast paced.

Swanson and his alignment will force the Hubs to flatten out their defense, using a cast of thousands to cover South Carroll receivers. That will include coverage duty for linebacker Derrick Keith, who has been a mainstay in North's interior defense this season.

"He will have to go back into pass coverage," Cunningham said. "He's big back there, but not many people know that he can fly. We will be doing some different things on defense. But Swanson is deadly because he can run, too. The big thing about their offense though is it will take our nose guard Jon Breehl out of the game. He's been a playmaker for us."

The Hubs will have to take a TV repairman's mentality into the game with them.

"We need to keep a vertical and horizontal hold on them because Swanson can stretch you both ways," Cunningham said. "We figure we are going to bend on defense, but we don't want to break. Last week (against Fort Hill), we keyed on the fullback series. This week, it's going to be a little different."

When it comes down to it, the best defense the Hubs can offer might be in the form of their offense.

North has exhibited a ball-control styled offense that thanks to execution has big-play capabilities. The Hubs have outscored their opponents 135-25 on 18 touchdowns in the last four games. It includes seven touchdowns from more than 40 yards, eight from more than 30 and 12 from more than 20.

"The clock is our friend this week," Cunningham said. "We have to grind it out some, but we will still be looking for the big play. The problem is, with their passing game, the clock can become a non-factor. This might be the longest game we play all year, so we have to be in shape."

The closest game the Hubs played for comparison came in the third week of the season against Frederick. The Cadets tried to throw the ball on North, but the Hubs rung up a 45-13 victory in a game in which they trailed early. Cunningham considers the Frederick game the turning point of North's 11-0 season.

Getting to 12-0 won't be easy. It got a little tough since tonight's forecast is for clear skies.

"We have our work cut out against South Carroll," Cunningham said. "Everything has been a good feeling, but we can't get complacent."

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