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Panthers fall from unbeaten ranks

October 02, 2004|By BILL STERNER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Berkeley Springs football coach Angelo Luvara stood at midfield just moments after his team dismantled Hancock 34-0 Friday evening. He was discussing, of all thing, chess.

As he gripped the hand of Hancock head coach John Blake, a former player of Luvara's at Potomac State, the veteran coach reminded his protege that the sometimes-brutal game of football indeed has similarities to the "gentleman's game."

"I just told John that sometimes this game has all the same strategies as chess," Luvara said. "You can win a match in chess and make it look easy when it actually was just all the right things falling into place."

All the right things certainly fell into place early for Luvara and the Indians in the 44th renewal of the area's most famous backyard brawl.

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Hancock came into the game with a spotless record and one of the area's leading ground games, only to have the tables turned by Berkeley Springs, which established the run first and used the pass sparingly to complement the change in offensive philosophy.

"We knew we needed to establish ourselves early," Luvara said. "We were determined to run the ball with some consistency and things went our way."

And how.

The Indians opened the game with an eight-play 68-yard drive capped off by Cody Hess' 2-yard run for the game's first touchdown just under three minutes in.

On the ensuing kickoff, a muffed kick twisted crazily toward the Hancock sideline, sending players scrambling after it. In the end, the Indians recovered the kick at the Hancock 43 and marched to their second touchdown, a 3-yard run by Randy Waugh, 12 plays later with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.

"Those two series stunned us," Blake said. "You are suddenly down two scores on the road in a hostile environment."

More bad things were in store for the Panthers. Hancock began its first drive on its own 34, and using the bruising running of fullback Josh Ruppenthal inside the tackles, the Panthers muscled the ball to the Indians 26 before falling short on a fourth-and-2.

On the very next play, Hess raced around right end and squirted down a seam on the sideline for a 74-yard touchdown run.

"We tried to take what they would give us," Luvara said. "When we saw they would shut down our weak-side game, we ran strong-side. ... We have a lot of weapons to defend against."

Hancock went three and out on its next possession, and a broken fourth-down punting attempt gave Berkeley Springs the ball on the Panthers 28. Two plays later, quarterback Tony Belt hit Ryan Morris from 14 yards out as the Indiands went ahead, 27-0.

"They are playing very well right now," Blake said of the Indians. "But I'm pleased our kids played hard on both sides of the ball in the second half."

Down 34-0, the Panthers kept Bekeley Springs out of the scoring column in the second half while driving inside the Indians 10 twice.

"We were pleased with how well we played tonight," Luvara said. "But as pleased as I am, I know how John feels."

"We missed some basic assignments and dug a hole we couldn't get out of," Blake said. "We need to put this all behind us."

Cody Hess rushed for 111 yards for the Indians, while Josh Ruppenthal had 63 yards for Hancock.

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