Bender ran up the gut three times to get the ball to midfield, including a 15-yard gain on which he slammed on the brakes at the line of scrimmage, spun counter-clockwise and slipped past two defenders into the secondary.
That move drew a smile from Kellick, who again voiced his opinion on the 5-foot-4, 145-pound runner.
"I told you he's one of the best."
He did have help. Brock Jamison was the thunder to Bender's lightning, providing the Rebels with the perfect change of pace. Jamison carried twice to move the ball inside the Smithsburg 40, but a holding call pushed South backwards and brought up a second-and-18 situation.
It proved to be a minor - and brief - setback. Bender went for 15 yards on a right sweep to set up a manageable third-and-3, which Jamison converted by diving forward for a 4-yard gain with just under 3 minutes left in the game.
"At that point, it was pretty much elementary," Kellick said. "It was important to keep that drive going, to keep getting first downs and move the clock."
Smithsburg (2-4, 0-3) had used its final timeout earlier in the fourth quarter and was unable to make the defensive stop it needed to regain possession. The Leopards finally got the ball back with 30 seconds remaining, following Bender's touchdown run, but only got three plays off before time expired.
"They manhandled us up front, and for them to take the ball 80 yards like they did without mistakes, that's a tough deal," Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff said.
The Rebels scored first as Jamison capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive with a 10-yard run on a counter play for a 7-0 lead. Jamison had 71 yards on 14 carries.
Smithsburg struck right back, needing just three plays to reach the end zone. Chad Brown broke into - and quickly through - the South secondary for a 55-yard touchdown. The point-after failed and South maintained the lead, 7-6. Brown finished with 106 yards for the Leopards.
South put together another time-consuming drive, this one going 13 plays and 74 yards with Bender, Jamison and quarterback Jason Waybright carrying the ball. Waybright finished it himself with a 1-yard sneak for a 13-7 South lead.
Again, Smithsburg answered, this time through the air as Brian Faulders threw across the middle to Joe Cacciola, who went for a 37-yard score.
"I knew it was going to be a hard-fought battle. It always is with Smithsburg," Kellick said. "With where these teams are, I'd say this was one of the better games played on this field in a while."