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Hubs' clock strikes mid-Knight

November 25, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

MIDDLETOWN, Md. - It was a yeoman's effort on the part of North Hagerstown.

The Hubs put huge dents into Middletown's suddenly bewildered defense early, but it was not enough, in the long run, to keep up with the quick-striking Knights.

When North Hagerstown walked off the field, it was for the final time in 2006 after suffering a 43-24 loss to Middletown in the Maryland Class 2A West final.

"The kids were used to being underdogs and being told, 'You can't do this,'" said North coach Danny Cunningham. "We lost, but I'm extremely proud of the kids."

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The Hubs (8-4) gave Middletown fits immediately, engineering a game-opening 11-play, 84-yard drive that covered 5 1/2 minutes. Quarterback Logan Kelso came out firing on all cylinders, completing all five pass attempts on the drive, including a pair to sophomore Alec Nelson that helped set up a 3-yard scoring run by Diez Johnson.

Middletown answered with authority from its own 44. Jimmy Hargett had a 12-yard gain and quarterback Kevin Linehan tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Pat McCarrick two minutes later.

North shocked the Knights with an answer of its own on an eight-play drive covering 71 yards, including Kelso's 43-yard pass to Jarell Hasan in perfect stride deep down the middle. With 1:14 left in the opening quarter, Johnson bulled in from the 2 and Chris Reid's kick gave North a 14-7 lead.

"Our receivers were running great routes," said Kelso, who opened the game by completing his first nine attempts.

North was rolling through Middletown's crunching defense, which had allowed only seven points per game.

"I thought we matched up real well with our receivers against (Middletown's) secondary," said Cunningham.

However, the Knights (11-1) were relentless in the second period with a three-touchdown barrage, two in quick-hitting fashion.

In two minutes, Hargett ran twice for 11 yards, Linehan found Pat McCarrick on a 24-yard pass and Linehan followed it up by bolting to the right and racing 36 yards to the end zone, with the extra point making it 14-14.

Middletown stopped North on fourth-down plays on each of the next two Hubs possesions, and followed each stop with a score. The tiebreaker came on a two-minute drive that culminated when Linehan hooked up with Brandon Kline on a 49-yard scoring strike for a 21-14 lead.

After the next stop, Middletown made it 27-14, with Linehan rolling around left end from 8 yards out to finish off a 10-play, 81-yard drive.

Refusing to roll over, North roared back from its own 30, using its five-wideout spread offense. Kelso hit Richie Baymon twice and Nelson with a 23-yarder to set up Reid's 22-yard field goal before the break.

The Hubs made defensive adjustments at the half and appeared to have the Knights at a roadblock, as Marcellus Sumlin intercepted a Linehan pass at the North 6.

But the Knights took advantage of a bad snap that Kelso had to pounce on in his own end zone for a Middletown safety and 29-17 lead.

A swarming Hubs defense stymied Middletown again and took possession at the Knights 48. After an incompletion, Kelso hit Hasan again over the middle and Hasan used his speed to get to paydirt. Reid's kick cut the deficit to five at 29-24.

"We had a four-man front in the first half, but we switched to a five-man in the second half and I was able to blitz more and we were all filling gaps," said North's Cadyn Robinson, who had 14 tackles.

After North's score, it was still tough sledding for Middletown, which faced a third-and-19 on its own 11. But the Knights went into the playbook and came up with a halfback option pass that resulted in a 34-yard gain and new life.

Even though Middletown did not score on that possession, it seemed to rejuvenate its offense entering the fourth period.

The Knights put together a pair of 54-yard drives in the final 12 minutes, with Hargett finishing both with scores from 5 and 12 yards.

"The offensive line picked up their defense real well in the first half," said Cunningham. "The defense didn't come to play. We were on our heels."

North allowed Middletown 488 yards of total offense with Linehan completing 10 of 15 for 206 yards.

Kelso, who hit 12 of 20 for 197 yards in the first half, finished 15 of 27 for 287 yards. Johnson battled his way for 53 yards on 14 carries for the Hubs.

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