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Rebels take bad early to get to good

November 05, 2008|By MARK KELLER

It's taken a little longer than desired, but things have finally come together for the South Hagerstown football team.

All it took was a couple of tough losses and a couple of key sophomores to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

The Rebels bounced back from consecutive heartbreaking defeats by beating Walkersville 27-23 in the final seconds last week, giving South some much-needed positive reinforcement as it prepares to face North Hagerstown in the 52nd meeting between the crosstown rivals on Friday.

"We've had a couple great weeks of practice after a couple tough losses and a great win last week," senior linebacker John Moser said. "I definitely feel like we got momentum on our side this year. We're playing great football right now."

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South (4-5) has played well the last three weeks, but has only one win - that against Walkersville - to show for its efforts.

Following a horrific 35-0 shutout at Frederick, the Rebels kept Smithsburg's offense out of the end zone, allowing only an interception return for a touchdown in a 7-0 loss to the unbeaten Leopards.

One week later, South had Middletown on the ropes before the Knights staged a frantic rally in the final six minutes of the game for a 23-19 win.

"I thought we played well enough to win against Smithsburg, well enough to win against Middletown," South coach Greg Kellick said. "I think the big turnabout in feeling good this week was that last week we went in, we had a little bit of a lead. What I told the guys was, 'If this thing comes down to the wire, it's our turn to win a close one. It's our turn.'"

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the Rebels are playing their best football at a time when two sophomores are the focal points of the offense.

Running back Nick Stubbs has shored up an erratic running attack since he arrived from the junior varsity squad five weeks ago and quarterback Hunter Phillips has shown steady improvement since his promotion before the Smithsburg game.

Both played major roles in the Walkersville win. Stubbs ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. Phillips completed 16 of 24 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score.

"I think Nick Stubbs took a giant step last week as far as being a leader on the team and Hunter, obviously, has settled into the role as quarterback," Kellick said. "It's his position, he knows it, the team knows it, they're following him.

"The nice thing about it was we went on an 80-yard drive and we had two sophomores that led us down the field behind a junior line."

The Rebels are showing much more confidence in recent weeks as the offense has stabilized in the capable hands of its two young leaders. After scoring just 30 points in its first four games of the season, South has scored 46 in its last two.

"I've been waiting for this all season. The offense is really opening up the last couple weeks," senior receiver Cory Shank said. "There's no weak link anymore."

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