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Leopards' next step - Conquer Greenway

November 20, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Smithsburg's football team has already taken one step forward this season. In order to take that second step, the Leopards will have to overcome both Class 1A West's top seed and one of Maryland's toughest venues.

By beating Hancock 54-0 in last week's semifinals, Smithsburg (9-2) erased last year's opening-round 28-7 setback to Beall. The Leopards also earned the right to travel to Cumberland this afternoon to play Allegany (9-2) in the hostile environment of Greenway Avenue Stadium - a place Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff is very familiar with.

"I kinda know what Greenway's all about, more than most of the Cumberland guys," said Orndorff, a Fort Hill graduate. "It's probably the best field in the state of Maryland. It's nice that our kids get to play on a field of that quality and get experience in that kind of fanatical football atmosphere only Cumberland can present.

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"If they can't get up to play in that stadium, they must be zombies."

"Everybody knows how big this game is," Leopards quarterback Josh Daniels said. "Everybody is going to be ready and confident."

Allegany defeated Northern Garrett 18-13 to reach this afternoon's West final, scheduled to kick off at 1.

To get past the Campers, Smithsburg will have to avoid turnovers. It's a task the Leopards fell short of last year, coughing the ball up six times in the loss at Beall.

"We're normally pretty good at holding on to the ball," Orndorff said. "We stress it and we're working harder on it, but at the same time, I don't want to stress it too much. I don't want them thinking about turnovers, I just want them to (avoid) them."

The Leopards' quick-hitting running game - led by tailback Justin Thompson (1,382 yards) and fullback Matt Feiser (1,041 yards) - will be tested against Allegany's physical eight-man front.

"With our speed, our line's so quick, they get off the ball and open the hole quick," Thompson said. "Matt opens it up if one isn't there."

"If we execute our plays like we've been doing all year, I think we can win."

"They're big, but we've played big teams this year and been successful. They don't get much bigger than Brunswick," Orndorff said. "That's the good thing about being in the MVAL, you get a chance to see all kinds of fronts, all kinds of offenses and defenses."

If Smithsburg can find some cracks in Allegany's run defense, Daniels (54-for-103, 1,136 yards, 10 touchdowns) may have a shot to throw deep to Dustin Mitchell and Matt Thompson.

"You can't have a one-dimensional team," Daniels said. "Running the ball opens up the pass, and if you get a passing game going that in turn opens up the run. We have to have everything working."

"This is single elimination," Orndorff said. "We'll come out with every play we have, maybe draw a few up in the dirt."

The offensive linemen in Allegany's wing-T offense will test Smithsburg's endurance, and the Campers' passing game could hurt the Leopards deep. Quarterback Austin Scell (55-for-121, 1,155 yards, 13 TDs) has a pair of weapons to look for in Bryan Hansel (18 catches, 490 yards) and the dangerous Donavin Vinson (28 catches, 563 yards, nine TDs)

"He's the boy who beat Northern with a long punt return and a long pass in the back of the end zone," Orndorff said. "He's a game breaker, and we have to know where he is at all times."

"They've got good running backs and a big line," said Feiser, Smithsburg's star linebacker who will have a big say in what happens today. "We've got to play a complete game to contend."

It's a tall task for the Leopards. Nobody ever said taking the next step was easy.

"We're going to have to play an inspired game and show a lot of intensity like we did the first seven games this season," Orndorff said. "We had a lot of intensity for Hancock, and if we can improve on that some, we'll be alright."

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