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Lions' late TD earns a playoff spot

November 06, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

WALKERSVILLE, Md. - After 303 yards rushing, one long pass completion gave Walkersville a ticket to the Maryland playoffs.

The Lions qualified for the Class 2A West region playoffs for the second straight season and destroyed the hopes of Middletown, as Brandon Geppert hooked up with Mark Ferro on a 56-yard touchdown with 37 seconds remaining to avoid overtime and secure a 20-13 victory over the Knights.

"This is crazy, it's wonderful," Geppert said of the victory, Walkersville's first over Middletown since 1996, "and I've got SAT's in the morning."

Missing Dave Berry at quarterback once again, this time due to a shoulder injury suffered in practice during the week, Geppert took over the signal-calling duties and Ferro shouldered a large load of the rushing chores, churning out 115 yards on 25 carries.

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After botching a 29-yard field goal attempt on a bad snap with 1:49 left in the game, Walkersville held Middletown to a three-and-out spanning 49 seconds, and took possession at its own 39 following a punt.

After a 5-yard run by Geppert, coach Hal Grau called a timeout and went for one play that hadn't been called during the game.

"We talked about sending the tight end to occupy their free safety with Ferro outside going on a fly pattern," said Grau after he received a cold ice bath. "The safety didn't bite, but Geppert threw a great pass and Mark did the rest."

Ferro isn't a stranger to catching the football, having been a wideout the past two years for the Lions before moving into the backfield.

"I knew it was going to be a pass play ... it was in our plans," Ferro said. "You hate to lose (Berry) but Geppert got the job done because he is an all-around player."

Walkersville (6-4, 5-1 MVAL Piedmont) messed up an earlier field goal attempt from 23 yards in the fourth period, but Middletown punted and also lost a fumble in an effort to take the lead.

The Knights (5-5, 4-2) started quickly as Wes Leatherman rumbled 67 yards for a score on their first offensive play of the game.

Even after allowing more than 100 yards rushing in the first period, Walkersville didn't break and took advantage of a 45-yard gallop by converted tight end Adam Brown. It set up a 7-yard scoring strike from Geppert to Mike Bogush to tie the game at 7-7 at the 8:54 mark of the second period.

Adam Delauter missed a 32-yard field goal wide left for Middletown early in the third period, but the Knights came back with a 7-play, 68-yard march in which Scott Putman's 34-yard run led to Leatherman's 4-yard score with 3:19 left. Following a post-possession penalty, Middletown was foiled on a two-point conversion try.

Walkersville answered with a two-minute drive with six rushing plays that covered 64 yards, with Shaun Coon scoring from the 1. Brown covered 34 yards and Ferro 23 in the drive, but Walkersville's extra point was blocked by the Knights' Andrew Crown, leaving the score tied at 13-13.

"We blocked very well on the first play of the game and after that we didn't execute at all," said Middletown coach Tim Ambrose. "We didn't play all that well last week. Walkersville played well defensively and ran the ball down our throats."

Brown finished with 147 yards on the ground, while Ferro's gains gave him 1,044 yards rushing for the season.

Leatherman, after gaining 100 yards on his first two carries, finished with 171 yards on 25 carries.

Grau said Berry would be getting an MRI and, pending the results, could be fitted with a harness for his non-throwing shoulder in order to play next week.

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