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Defense takes mystery out of Hubs' win

November 18, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

UNION BRIDGE, Md. - North Hagerstown kept scribbling in the margins while penning a defensive masterpiece.

The Hubs were quick off the line to provide pressure. Their linebackers filled holes and kept Francis Scott Key in the middle of the field. The secondary covered up the Eagles' receivers like infants in a crib.

The effort was a near-perfect manuscript, but something was still missing.

That came on the last play of the game when North Hagerstown put its signature on the bottom line Friday in a 27-7 victory over FSK in the Maryland Class 2A West playoff opener.

In fitting fashion, North stuffed the Eagles on the last play of the game - an incomplete swing pass - inside the 1 to preserve the 20-point victory and punch its ticket to face top-seeded Middletown next weekend.

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"We wanted to make a statement (in this game)," said North defensive end Billy Campbell. "At the end, we didn't want to let them score. We were trying to make a statement (to Middletown), too."

North's defense played a complete game, keeping the bigger Eagles out of the end zone. FSK, the second seed, used a 14-play drive on its first possession to get a tying touchdown with 3:11 remaining in the first quarter.

The Hubs shut down the Eagles for the final 39 minutes, using two fumble recoveries and a big stop on a fourth-down play at the 5 to keep FSK stuck on 7.

"We have been a 'bend but don't break' defense for most of the year," said North coach Danny Cunningham. "We have been working on our defensive coverage a lot. We were concerned with their power game and keeping their quarterback from getting out of the pocket. Campbell and Dervon Wilson did a great job containing him."

It was a case of defensive harmony for the Hubs.

North's coverage in the secondary forced quarterback Chris Kolb to pull down the ball and double-clutch on passing attempts, giving the defensive front just enough time to engulf him and hang him out to dry.

"That was my job ... to contain the quarterback," said Campbell, who finished with six tackles and one of North's two sacks. "We just contained him, and with the secondary doing their job, we closed in."

By the midpoint of the second quarter, the Hubs had a sense of security. They got two quick touchdowns to take the lead and had FSK's offense just where they wanted it.

"We were worried about what they did coming in," Cunningham said. "But, we found the answer. We figured it all out for the most part and knew they weren't going to beat us deep or break a long one."

North's superior speed took over.

The Hubs began finding the answer early in the second quarter, with the first of the two fumbles that were recovered by Tommy Evans, ending FSK's march at the Hubs 21.

After punting that turnover away, North created its biggest break.

Kolb rolled left to pass at FSK's 17 but fumbled when he was hit from behind by Wilson. The ball rolled free to the 3, where Evans fell on it. Diez Johnson scored two plays later to give North the commanding lead.

"The hit on Kolb was big," Cunningham said. "Once we get the ball inside the 20, we figure we will score. We confused them because we kept changing our defensive fronts. We took advantage of turnovers and we didn't put the ball on the turf today. That was the difference."

The defensive push was welcomed by Cunningham. He said North came to FSK looking to settle some unfinished business for the loss it suffered at the hands of the Eagles in the 2004 playoffs.

And the final play was the perfect finishing touch.

"We wanted to keep them under two scores and that last play allowed us to do that," Cunningham said. "And (that play) helps us carry the momentum over to next week."

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