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Hubs blame it on the rain

November 13, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

UNION BRIDGE, Md. - There were negatives facing the North Hagerstown football team even before the kickoff of Friday's Maryland Class 2A West semifinal playoff game at Francis Scott Key.

A persistent day-long rain worked to the advantage of the Eagles' ground-oriented offense and against North's passing style. Combined with a tower of lights that did not work at midfield, it was a miserable time for the Hubs to hop off a bus following a 90-minute journey.

For the second straight year, an MVAL Piedmont team ended North Hagerstown's season, as Francis Scott Key muddled its way to a 23-9 victory over the Hubs.

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Effectively slopping their way through the mud for 255 yards rushing on 49 carries, the Eagles (9-2) followed up on South Carroll's win over North last season.

"This one is more difficult to take as a loss than last year," Hubs coach Dan Cunningham said. "Last year, we took everyone by storm. We knew we had a good team this year coming in."

North (9-2), with Robbie Thompson at the helm, led the MVAL Antietam in most passing categories. Receivers Quielan Gantt and Bernard Artillus, however, had problems using their speed on the sloppy turf, and the Hubs were neutralized.

"The weather took its toll on us," Cunningham said. "It's hard to get off the bus from a 90-minute trip, it's raining, you are freezing and there's three inches of mud. The rain just shut down our speed."

The Hubs fumbled away the opening kickoff to give FSK possession at the North 29. Ninety seconds into the game, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead when Matt Angell broke two tackles and used a spin move to score from 14 yards out.

Later in the quarter after a 10-play Hubs drive stalled, Brent Toms deadened a punt on the FSK 3-yard line. Two plays later, Dink Snowden dropped Angell in the endzone for a safety with 1:58 left in the quarter.

Darail Porter returned the ensuing free kick to the FSK 49, and North took a 9-7 lead when Leon Finley raced down the right sideline and twice managed to avoid stepping out of bounds, scoring from 54 yards out. Toms converted the PAT.

However, Key answered when Ryan Blanchette broke off a 54-yard run to the North 4 which led to Angell scoring on the first play of the second quarter. Blanchette ran in a two-point conversion to make it 15-9.

Later in the quarter, the Eagles again used a big play to set up six points.

From the right wing, Angell ran left, took the handoff and raced 53 yards to the North 2 to set up Brett Wiley's 2-yard score with 4:43 left in the first half. Layton Hersh ran in the conversion to make it 23-9.

"We talked about playing together and playing basic fundamental football at halftime," Cunningham said. "We played better in the second half, but tonight just didn't suit our needs."

Thompson, who had 19 touchdowns coming in, struggled. He completed 4 of 15 passes for 32 yards and threw three interceptions.

"The rain ... playing in it is not our game," Thompson said. "We had too many minor mistakes and I didn't throw the ball well."

Any thought of a second-half comeback was thwarted in the third quarter, as the Hubs lost one possession on a bad pitchout from Thompson to Artillus and two more on a pair of interceptions by Angell.

"We were prepared for their passing game," said Angell, a junior who finished with 123 yards on 13 carries. "We were happy to see the rain. It helped us out a lot."

Finley ran for 115 yards on 12 carries for the Hubs.

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