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Hubs top Cougars at Callas Stadium

Hubs top Cougars at Callas Stadium

November 04, 2006|by MARK KELLER

North Hagerstown's football players - and fans, for that matter - found themselves in a unique situation following Friday night's game against Catoctin.

There was no school bus to board, no trip to be made across town as there have been for the last 50 years. So, they did what any other team does after a home game: They basked in the glow of victory.

The No. 4 Hubs huddled at the 30-yard line and, joined by a throng of North students who braved the cold for the entire game, celebrated their 49-36 victory over the Cougars in their first true home game at Mike Callas Stadium.

North players lingered on and around the field, talking with friends and fans, while members of the stadium committee shared handshakes and bear hugs with coaches.

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"It's remarkable ... to shine in a situation like this, the stadium opener," North receiver Jarell Hasan said. "We had to step up, or we would have failed everyone who worked to make this happen."

While the first game in their new stadium was one incentive to play well, the Hubs had so many other reasons to step up.

North (6-3, 5-1) pulled into a three-way tie for first place with Catoctin and Boonsboro in the MVAL Antietam standings with one week to play.

The Hubs put themselves in better position to claim a Maryland Class 2A West playoff spot. The victory, coupled with Winters Mill's 6-0 loss to Tuscarora, should move North ahead of Winters Mill for the fourth spot in the region.

But in the end, the stadium was the story and the Hubs made themselves comfortable on their home turf. It took North just five plays and less than 2 minutes to put points on the scoreboard as Diez Johnson asserted himself on the ground.

Johnson carried four times for 53 yards on the drive, including a 45-yard run during which he ran over Catoctin's D.J. Doyle before being pushed out of bounds at the 2. Johnson completed the scoring drive on the next play for a 7-0 lead.

Meanwhile, all the Cougars seemed to be able to do was drop the ball on the turf.

Catoctin (7-2, 5-1) fumbled four times in their first five plays, turning the ball over to the Hubs three times as if they were presenting them with housewarming gifts.

"You can't turn the ball over three times against North and expect to win the game," Catoctin coach Doug Williams said. "You can't give them three more opportunities than they already have. They're too skilled for that."

North scored off one of those three turnovers, a 26-yard run by Justin Donaldson that put North up, 14-0. Donaldson scored again on a 17-yard run on the second play of the second quarter and the Hubs looked to be on their way to a rout.

But the Cougars put together a 15-play, 65-yard drive to end their scoring drought, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run by Nick Stiles.

Hasan found himself in the right place at the right time on North's next drive, breaking off a block and picking up a fumble at the 5-yard line and taking it in for a 28-6 North lead with just 32 seconds left before halftime.

That was still plenty of time for the Cougars, as Kyle Sanders returned the kickoff 47 yards to the North 28. Two plays later, Doyle scrambled for a 9-yard touchdown run to make it 28-14 at the break and raise the ire of North coach Danny Cunningham.

"We let them have it on the field to give them a chance to talk about it going up the hill at halftime," Cunningham said. "And they did that and worked it out. Our kick coverage was greatly improved after that."

The third quarter was a shootout as the teams traded touchdowns. Bobby Groft pulled Catoctin within six at 28-22 with a 1-yard touchdown, while Donaldson answered with his third score of the night for the Hubs. Then Doyle hit Colten Eureka with a 45-yard scoring strike and the two-point conversion made it a five-point game, 35-30.

But two plays by Hasan put the game away for North. He broke behind the secondary on a perfectly executed run fake by quarterback Logan Kelso, who hit Hasan for a 55-yard touchdown.

After North forced a Catoctin punt just 2 minutes later, Hasan returned the kick 45 yards to the Cougars 20, setting up a five-play drive that Kelso finished with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

"There were distractions this week, but they were all in our favor," Cunningham said. "Today was a great day, we had a good team meal before the game and everybody came out ready to go."

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