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Rebels' hearts broken again

October 25, 2008

"Just when you think you can't feel worse after a loss ..."

South Hagerstown football coach Greg Kellick's words just trailed away. Clearly, he felt worse Friday after the Rebels' 23-19 Homecoming loss to Middletown at School Stadium than he had the previous week.

"I feel bad for the kids," Kellick said. "They laid it all on the line tonight, did everything we asked them to do and came out of it with another heartbreaking loss."

The Rebels (3-5, 0-2 MVAL Piedmont) seemed to have the game in hand when Antoine Malone stepped in front of a pass from Middletown's Rob Michels, picked it off and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown and a 19-7 South lead with 7 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

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Instead, the Knights (6-2, 2-0) scored 16 points in a span of 4 1/2 minutes to take their first lead of the game and increased the pressure on Rebels sophomore quarterback Hunter Phillips to send South to its third straight loss, including two in a row of the heartbreaking variety.

The Rebels lost 7-0 to Smithsburg last week despite not allowing an offensive touchdown.

"We've been preaching since Monday that this was going to be a battle," Middletown coach Kevin Lynott said. "We saw what South did to Smithsburg last week ... shut 'em out. We've seen this time and time again from South."

Two big plays turned the tide for Middletown: A 40-yard pass from Michels to Sam Glushakow that set up the Knights' second touchdown -- a 3-yard plunge by Koby Cavanaugh -- and a 52-yard scoring run by Tony Boyer that put the Knights in front with 2:29 left.

The turnaround left Lynott stunned as he relived it after the game. He was particularly taken back by the speed with which it happened.

"19-7 with 7 minutes left?" Lynott asked as his jaw dropped. "We want the kids to believe no matter what. This will be a big confidence builder for us.

"Give South credit, too. Up until the middle of the fourth quarter, this was a textbook game of field position, and South won that game. We had a lot of mistakes, but they took advantage of them."

The Rebels capitalized on two of those miscues in the second quarter. The first -- a snap over the punter's head which resulted in a kick of minus-9 yards -- led to a 13-yard touchdown run by Nick Gross, who was back with the team after serving a two-game suspension.

The second came on an attempted hook-and-lateral play in which the lateral hit the ground and bounced into the hands of South linebacker Tyler Kalkbrenner, who returned it all the way to the Midddletown 10.

Two plays later, Phillips hit Devaun Bowie over the middle for a 9-yard touchdown and a 13-0 South lead with just 40 seconds to play in the first half.

But Michels -- who completed just 2 of his first 6 passes -- connected on three straight throws to quickly move the Knights into the red zone, then found Dulberger on the left side for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 2.7 seconds remaining.

"The tough part about this, if it were the first two games of the season, you could still look at it and say we have the whole season ahead of us and we're playing well," Kellick said. "This late in the season, to finally be playing this well and to come up empty is hard.

"What we'll attempt to do with these last two games is to keep making strides forward and not look back. We've gotta get better."

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