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Losses have Leopards, Sentinels refocused

November 17, 2007|By TIM KOELBLE

Smithsburg and Fort Hill each had 9-0 records heading into last week's regular-season rivalry games.

Both teams came out with defeats, and don't think for a minute either is planning on a two-game losing streak to end the year.

Today at 1 p.m., the two teams square off for the first time ever in the Maryland Class 1A West semifinals at Greenway Avenue Stadium in Cumberland.

"We were kind of not even there," Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff said of the Leopards' slow start that led to a 25-20 loss to Boonsboro. "We're ready to go right now. Last week showed the kids that you can't come out flat, expect to play one half of football and win a game."

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After a week of hype leading up to its big game against Allegany, Fort Hill came out much the same way as Smithsburg, falling behind 20-0 in the first half on the way to a 33-14 loss.

"With all the hype and excitement, you just can't understand how you can be flat, and that was a problem for us," said Fort Hill coach Barry Lattimer.

Much of the postgame thoughts surrounded a Fort Hill-Allegany rematch next week in the 1A West final, presuming wins over Smithsburg and Boonsboro.

"We know if the same thing didn't happen (to Smithsburg) last week we'd be talking about a 10-0 team we are playing," said Lattimer, a 1975 Fort Hill graduate in his ninth year as the Sentinels' head coach. "We're impressed with (Smithsburg). They have a nice mix of run and pass and that is a concern for us and (Buddy) mixes up their defense pretty well. And knowing him as I do, I wouldn't be surprised if he has some changes planned."

Orndorff graduated from Fort Hill in 1969 and played football for Lattimer's late father, Charlie.

Bobby Smith and Erick Parker are the mainstays of Smithsburg's rushing attack, with Smith averaging 105 yards per game. Senior Bryan Faulders has provided an extra option in the offensive mix, throwing for 135 yards per game with 14 touchdowns. Josh Conway and Kevin Kocsis have combined for 80 percent of the pass receptions and nine TDs.

"I told our kids that we are being viewed as a practice game and everyone up there is already talking about, 'Why are we even playing this game?'" said Orndorff. "Knowing (Barry), he won't be approaching us that way. He'll have his team prepared in every way."

The Leopards will have to prepare for a ground-oriented attack that has been the major force behind the Sentinels' 40-point scoring average, led by Scott Rice, a 5-foot-7, 240-pound senior who has rushed for 1,100 yards this season and more than 2,000 the last two years.

"We have to stop their running game," said Orndorff. "The Rice kid is a beast and a load to bring down, but they've got other good ones like (Corey) Taylor."

Taylor, a senior who runs from the halfback slot, has gained 800 yards.

The Leopards will be undermanned on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Lattimer said his team averages about 240 pounds across the line.

"Their line looks like a small college team," said Orndorff.

Smithsburg is making its first postseason appearance since 2004, when its 9-3 season came to a halt with a 33-19 loss to Allegany.

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