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Leopards pounce on early win

September 06, 2008|By MARK KELLER

SMITHSBURG -- Eric Parker rushed for 170 yards Friday night, but none were more important than the four he gained late in the fourth quarter.

With Smithsburg facing fourth-and-1 near midfield and just over 1 minute left in the game, Parker took a handoff, lowered his head and plowed his way to a first down, allowing the Leopards to run out the clock on a 27-21 season-opening victory over Northern Garrett.

"Coach told me I had to run north-south. That was the key, not trying to jump outside," Parker said. "I just had to get the first down. They could have come back and won the game if I didn't."

The Leopards (1-0) dominated Northern in nearly every statistical category, but they helped the Huskies stay in the game by fumbling three times and allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown just before halftime.

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"I just felt like we didn't play with the kind of intensity we need to play with to be successful, for a game or for a season," Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff said. "They have a nice team and they had more intensity tonight. I'm kind of disappointed about that. I expected us to do a better job."

Smithsburg held the Huskies to six first downs and 106 total yards, including just 37 on the ground on 24 carries. Seventy of those yards came in the fourth quarter as Northern put pressure on the Leopards.

Smithsburg led 27-14 as the fourth quarter began and drove the ball deep into Huskies territory. But quarterback Kyle Orndorff fumbled a snap at the Northern 2 and Jason Green recovered for the Huskies.

The Leopards defense held strong, pinning the Huskies on the 1-yard line and forcing a punt from the back of the end zone. Josh Conway fielded the punt at the 30 before fumbling it away and giving Northern another opportunity.

Two big pass plays by Josh Duckworth -- an 18-yard completion to Kyle Gillum and a 32-yard strike to a wide-open Jared Rodeheaver -- moved Northern to the Smithsburg 13. Three plays later, Gillum hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass despite a Leopards defender hanging over his shoulder to pull the Huskies within six points with 2:15 to play.

"That touchdown drive, they had two great catches and really moved the ball on us," Orndorff said. "But we let them get open ... that's not Smithsburg football by any means. That'll get corrected Monday."

Northern attempted an onside kick, which the Leopards recovered at their own 44. Parker gained nine yards on first down, but was held to no gain on second and third down.

Orndorff called time out, gathered his offense and told Parker to get the first down.

"Parker took a beating tonight, but he ran the ball pretty well," Orndorff said. "I don't think we blocked a linebacker all night. I really thought we'd be able to run outside better than we did tonight."

The Leopards clicked in the first quarter, using fullback Tyler Scott on trap plays as a nice complement to Parker.

Kyle Orndorff also threw the ball well, completing his first two passes for touchdowns -- one a 27-yarder to Billy Lawrence on a timing pattern down the sideline, the other a 3-yard floater to Conway for a 14-0 lead.

But Smithsburg mistakes turned into points for the Huskies. Northern recovered a botched Orndorff handoff at the Smithsburg 24 and converted it into a touchdown by Zach Fratz.

Fratz then caught the Leopards sleeping just before halftime. Following a second Orndorff-to-Conway touchdown pass with 40 seconds left in the second quarter, Fratz took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a score and a 21-14 halftime score.

"We made mistakes tonight, but we won," Buddy Orndorff said. "The mistakes we made are all correctable mistakes. And they will get corrected."

"We won, but we've got so much work to do," Parker said. "If we expect to go to the playoffs, we have to pick up the pace and the intensity now."

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