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It's finally time to play ball

November 10, 2006|by MARK KELLER

The week of hype has reached its peak. It's time to play the game.

The hoolpa for the North Hagerstown-South Hagerstown football game certainly doesn't match that of the Super Bowl, but the visibility has been heightened for today's matchup at School Stadium, the 50th game in the city series.

"I think, from the community standpoint, it's a little bigger this year with it being the 50th game," South coach Greg Kellick said Monday. "As the week goes on and the players realize what it is, it might affect them some. Right now, we're just thinking, 'It's North.'"

A week filled with spirit days and pep rallies will come to a head when the teams take the field on the south end of town - the final time the game will be played exclusively at School Stadium. North will have an actual home-field advantage when the 51st meeting is played at Mike Callas Stadium in 2007.

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As is often the case, the teams enter the season finale with different objectives in mind.

The Hubs (6-3) seemingly have much more to play for. They hold the fourth position in the Maryland Class 2A West playoff standings and would claim their third postseason berth in four years with a win tonight.

North is tied with Catoctin and Boonsboro atop the MVAL Antietam standings, meaning a victory would assure the Hubs nothing less than a share of the conference title, which also would be their third in four years.

"You don't have to say a lot to the kids to get them ready to play South," North coach Danny Cunningham said. "This group is self-motivated. They remind each other what they're here for on a day-to-day basis."

The Rebels (4-5) are playing for pride and a chance to reach the .500 mark for the year - not a winning season, but not a losing season, either.

Oh, and there's the chance to keep their rival from reaching the playoffs.

"The major factor with the kids is that it's our opportunity to knock them out of the playoffs," Kellick said. "There's also the chance to knock them out of the MVAL title. So, this is what you look for and what you shoot for. The bottom line is, 'Go beat them.'"

That's easier said than done. The Hubs are coming off consecutive 49-point games, while the Rebels, who had been tough defensively all season, have allowed 52 and 41 points in their last two games.

The Hubs proved vulnerable against the pass last week as Catoctin receivers got behind the North secondary on several occasions and quarterback D.J. Doyle went 9 of 14 for 168 yards and a touchdown.

But the Rebels have completed just three passes in the last five games - all last week in a loss to Boonsboro - meaning South will have to rely on the running of Tony Bender, Eric Phillips and Brock Jamison to get the offense going.

Of course, North is likely to stack the box against the run, with linebackers Cadyn Robinson and Tommy Evans - the Hubs' top two tacklers - leading the charge.

South's defense will be facing its third straight potent offense, led by quarterback Logan Kelso, who holds many of North's passing records already and would break the school mark for touchdown passes in a season with three scoring strikes tonight.

Kelso has weapons all around him, including receiver Jarell Hasan, who has 14 touchdowns on the season, Diez Johnson, who needs 146 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the year, and Marcellus Sumlin, South's starting quarterback a year ago who could lineup just about anywhere for the Hubs.

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