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Thompson's runback isn't a happy return for Hancock

November 14, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - Small doses of Justin Thompson are enough to make most teams ill.

Hancock found out a full shot of the Smithsburg's tailback is hazardous to one's health.

Thompson's 166 yards and three rushing touchdowns on Saturday were enough to give the Panthers' motion sickness. But it was his fumblerooski-style kickoff return TD to start the second half that put Hancock out of its misery as Smithsburg romped to a 54-0 victory in a Maryland Class 1A West semifinal.

Thompson sparkled with his outside attack and was aided by the power inside running of Matt Feiser - who finished with 99 yards and three touchdowns - and superior play on the front line to put the game out of reach and sent second-seeded Smithsburg to a West final date with Allegany in Cumberland next weekend.

"We just wanted to control the line of scrimmage," Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff said. "(Hancock) is so big, but our offensive line did a great job, especially our center, Bobby Jones, against their nose guard. We felt we could run the ball. Thompson is so explosive and, well, Feiser is Feiser."

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Smithsburg took a 20-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, using a 2-yard run by Feiser with three seconds remaining to get the advantage. Hancock held tight to the Leopards, despite losing fullback Josh Ruppenthal to a leg injury in the first quarter, and felt good about its position despite the deficit.

"We thought if we could keep them out of the end zone at the end of the first half, we'd be in good shape," Hancock coach John Blake said. "We played real hard and when they scored right at the end, it took some of the wind out of our sails. ... That kickoff return really burst our bubble."

Hancock started packing up the sail at the start of the second half.

The second-half kickoff came to Thompson at the Smithsburg 15, but he muffed the catch and bobbled it three times before picking the loose ball up on the run at the 20. Within three steps, Thompson was at full speed and cracked through the right side of Hancock's first wave of coverage and into the open field for an 80-yard touchdown in the first 13 seconds of the second half.

"I just started fumbling the ball," Thompson said. "When I finally picked it up, all the blocking was set up and I was able to go. We all played as a team and we scored as a team."

It was the best thing that could have happened to Smithsburg and the worst for Hancock as the Leopards jumped out to a 26-0 lead. In essence, the game was over.

"The big play was that kickoff return," Orndorff said. "I didn't know what (Thompson) was doing. ... I thought he was going to dribble it all the way downfield. A lot of times when that happens, the coverage overruns the ball and it opens things up."

Hancock found itself trailing without the firepower needed to make a comeback. The Panthers managed just 77 yards of offense, including 18 yards in the second half. They were 0 of 9 passing with four interceptions. In all, Hancock turned the ball over five times, four leading to Smithsburg scores.

"Smithsburg has some good backs and they are fast," Blake said. "We shouldn't have had a 54-point spread here, but that kickoff return caused us to hang our heads a little. Still, I'm really proud of what these players did this year."

The Leopards ran only seven plays in the second half with four going for touchdowns after the kick return. Smithsburg rolled up 160 of its 303 yards rushing in the second half on six running plays as Thompson added a 57-yard touchdown sweep and Feiser scored on runs up the middle of 18 and 37 yards before sophomore Troy Bradner capped the scoring with a 36-yard sweep.

"We try to get 4 1/2 yards every time we run the ball," said Feiser, who surpassed 1,000 yards for the season in his 18-yard score. "The line blocked so well. It's hard to get 1,000 yards when Justin is running so well and has 1,000 himself."

Thompson ran for scores of 3 and 10 yards in the first quarter, setting a school record for rushing touchdowns in a season - his 21st this year- on the first score.

Jaret Trail carried the bulk of Hancock's offense, moving from tailback to fullback duty with Ruppenthal's injury and led the Panthers with 53 yards on 20 carries.

"Hancock gets maligned a lot for the schedule they play, but I want you to know they come out and hit you," Orndorff said. "We started out slow, but it wasn't because of what we were doing, it was because they came out and hit us. They packed everything in on the inside and we ran inside to make sure they stayed there. Then it opened up the inside for Justin, who ran with his head up and did a good job."

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