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Leopards still perfect

October 23, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

The No. 4 Smithsburg football team slid past No. 6 South Hagerstown 14-8 Friday night to improve to 8-0 overall, 5-0 in the MVAL Antietam Conference and 1-0 in the game of follow the bouncing ball.

In the wet and sloppy field conditions at School Stadium, each team fumbled the ball six times. The Leopards had three turnovers and the Rebels (5-3, 4-1) had five.

"We'll take it, but it was an ugly game," Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff said. "We self-destructed so much I had trouble recognizing who we were at times."

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Trailing 8-7 midway through the fourth quarter, Smithsburg reconstructed itself. On third-and-8 at the South 18, Leopards quarterback Josh Daniels made up for his two third-quarter turnovers with one sweet pass, hitting Dustin Mitchell in the left corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score with 5:22 left on the clock.

"We finally put everything together. Everything clicked on that play," said Daniels, who finished 5 of 14 passing for 57 yards with an interception. "It got real hairy, but we pulled it out."

The Rebels got the ball back two more times deep in Smithsburg territory but were unable to get a first down.

"The kids knew what was at stake, and we rose to the occasion," Orndorff said. "This was a real big win as far as trying to get home-field advantage in the playoffs."

South didn't seem to have any home-field advantage early in the game, fumbling the ball away on its first two possessions, including its very first play from scrimmage. Josh Stanton gobbled up both loose balls for the Leopards, who quickly capitalized on the first turnover.

Starting on the South 37, Smithsburg needed five plays to get into the end zone. Justin Thompson, who joined the 1,000-yard rushing club last week, ran 5 yards up the middle for a 7-0 Leopards lead with 7:17 left in the first quarter.

"What it boiled down to was jitters in the first half," said South coach Greg Kellick, whose team trailed 7-0 at halftime after managing just 44 yards of total offense. "At halftime, we realized we could play with these guys, and we came out and played."

Starting the second half at their own 35, the Rebels marched to the Smithsburg 10 on five rushes, getting 43 yards on three carries from Allen Daniels and 12 yards on two carries from Jimbo Harmon. On fourth-and-goal at the 7, quarterback Mark Bryan, rolling left on the option, found Ronald Jackson in the left side of the end zone. Daniels ran for the two-point conversion to give South an 8-7 lead with 8:01 left in the third quarter.

"At that particular time, I was feeling pretty good," Kellick said.

He felt even better when Bryan recovered a fumble at the Rebels 25 on the ensuing possession.

However, South gave the ball right back, as Troy Bradner picked off Bryan.

"We were worried to death when they took the kickoff and marched it right down the field," Orndorff said. "But then we got the turnover and that turned the momentum."

It kept turning. Each team turned the ball over on its next two possessions.

"It was ugly, but we won," Orndorff said. "Sometimes you have to have a close ball game. Hopefully this will help us down the road - winning a close game over a quality team."

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