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County rivalries remain tugs-of-war

Rebels, Hubs reverse trend

Rebels, Hubs reverse trend

November 11, 2005|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

For the first time in four years, the only thing riding on the Hagerstown Gridiron Championship Classic is the trophy which will be presented to the winning team.

The last three outings in the city series have seen the winner build momentum for the postseason with big-margin shutout victories. The last two have seen the winner wrap up unbeaten seasons in the MVAL Antietam Conference.

But today's North Hagerstown-South Hagerstown football game at School Stadium - the 49th meeting in the series - is an old-fashioned pride game featuring two teams whose seasons failed to live up to their August expectations.

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The Hubs (4-5) - who are likely playing their final North-South game at School Stadium as the "home" team - had their 14-game MVAL Antietam winning streak snapped in Week 5 when Brunswick handed them their first loss ever since the realignment of the MVAL in 2003. North also was denied its third straight Class 2A West playoff berth and third consecutive conference title following a 1-2 start and some early-season injuries.

Quarterback Logan Kelso missed 1 1/2 games and running back Marcus Scott has been out for the last four games for North, which can even the series record with a victory. South leads the city series, 24-23-1.

Kelso has been effective since his return to the lineup in week 4, throwing for 620 yards and nine touchdowns. He has been intercepted 11 times - including four last week in a loss to Catoctin - and has been plagued at times by receivers dropping passes.

The Hubs have incorporated a running back-by-committee approach since the injury to Scott, with Josh Talbert (330 yards) getting the majority of the carries. Diez Johnson, a sophomore transfer from South, played his first varsity game last week and ran for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Turnovers have hurt North more than any other factor this season. In their five losses, the Hubs have turned the ball over 29 times. They have committed six turnovers or more in a game three times this season.

Meanwhile, the Rebels (1-8) have struggled all season to jumpstart an offense that returned only one starter from last year's 5-5 squad.

South is last in the Antietam in points scored (66), averaging just over a touchdown a game. The Rebels have been shut out three times, including their last two games, and have scored more than one touchdown in a game only three times. It is South's lowest-scoring team since 1992, when the Rebels scored 50 points.

Marcellus Sumlin, the Rebels' junior quarterback, has taken much of the offensive load on his shoulders, leading the team in rushing and passing.

But Sumlin will need help if the Rebels are to end their season on a winning note. Patrick Mertz has four touchdown catches this season, nearly half of South's entire scoring output. Running backs Tony Bender and Derrick Hendershot have only about 375 rushing yards between them. All three will be relied upon to produce yardage.

More importantly, given the recent history of the North-South series, the Rebels defense will need to show up strong in order to keep South in the game. The Hubs have won the last two meetings, 41-0 and 39-0. The Rebels won the previous two meetings, 7-0 and 39-0.

The Rebels have allowed nearly 28 points per game and allowed 26 points or more six times this season.

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