Leopards' final play beats Wildcats

October 30, 2009|By MARK KELLER

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    WILLIAMSPORT -- The Williamsport Wildcats were ready to celebrate a Senior Night victory over a Washington County rival Friday night.

    They were ready to celebrate a win that was to put them on the verge of their first-ever berth in the MPSSAA football playoffs.

    That's when Smithsburg's Justin Morgan and Jake Gouff stomped on the Wildcats' party balloons.

    Morgan connected with Gouff for a 32-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game to give the Leopards a 26-21 victory, simultaneously deflating the boisterous Williamsport crowd and the Wildcats' postseason hopes.

    "You get your heart ripped out two games against two rivals, Boonsboro and Smithsburg. We should have won both of them," Williamsport coach Randy Longnecker said. "We knew this was for the playoffs tonight and we lose on a long pass. There's no consoling them. We're still learning how to win football games and we didn't quite close it out."


Just moments before Gouff's winning score, the Wildcats (4-5, 1-3 MVAL Antietam) had electrified the crowd, first with a show of grit, then a display of guts.

The grit: Casey McKenrick completing four straight passes while running the two-minute drill, the last an 18-yard strike over the middle to Joey Sutch for a touchdown with 28.4 seconds remaining that pulled Williamsport within one, 20-19.

The guts: After a timeout, the Wildcats lined up to go for the two-point conversion and -- supposedly -- the win. McKenrick took the snap out of the shotgun and found Sutch, his favorite target on the night, for the two and a 21-20 Williamsport lead.

"We were having trouble with our kicking game and we had them reeling," Longnecker said. "I always like to keep it going while you've got them going backwards. I asked the kids, too, and they felt confident going for two and I want them to have some ownership in what we do."

Unfazed, Ben Daniels took the ensuing kickoff for Smithsburg and broke into the clear down the Williamsport sideline before being knocked out of bounds by Nate Willis at the Wildcats 32-yard line.

"I thought he did a great job of making something happen when they had the middle closed up," Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff said. "He bounced it outside and it was just Ben after that. He gave us field position."

But the Leopards (6-3, 3-0) had just 18 seconds to work with. Working out of the shotgun -- something the Leopards have done very little this season -- Morgan threw incomplete on first down, a pass that went in and out of the hands of Jack Schwartz.

Morgan threw behind his intended receiver on second down, leaving just 4.9 seconds left on the clock.

On the final play, Morgan lofted a pass over two Williamsport defenders toward Gouff. Gouff tipped the ball with one hand, then caught it with two at the 10 and beat Sutch to the goal line for the touchdown.

"I felt sick. When it came out of my hands it was wobbling," Morgan said. "Then I saw it go into Jake's hands and he fell into the end zone and I felt better."

"We hadn't really been in shotgun that much because we really didn't have to," Orndorff said. "We worked on some things with Justin this week, stepping up in the pocket, and he did a great job stepping up the whole time that series. And Jake made a great catch, great concentration."

Derek Smith scored a pair of touchdowns for Smithsburg, which likely locked up a spot in the Class 1A West playoffs with the win. Smith finished with 61 rushing yards, Daniels had 54 and Taylor Damuth led the Leopards with 66.

McKenrick completed 13 of 17 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Sutch had eight catches for 97 yards.

Chris Githens returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown for the Wildcats to tie the score at 13 with 7:26 left in regulation.

Smithsburg followed that up with a 12-play, 71-yard drive that ate up nearly five minutes. Damuth capped it with a 2-yard touchdown run to put Smithsburg up, 20-13.

"It's almost one of those games you want to apologize to Williamsport for because they played so well and played with a lot of heart, but that happens," Orndorff said. "We've been in ballgames like that before, too. I feel for Williamsport, but I'm not giving it back."

Smithsburg 26, Williamsport 21

S -- Derek Smith 2 run (kick failed)
W -- Reggie Russ 6 pass from McKenrick (C.J. Ezidinma kick)
S -- Smith 1 run (Jake Gouff kick)
W -- Chris Githens 65 punt return (kick failed)
S -- Taylor Damuth 2 run (Gouff kick)
W -- Joey Sutch 18 pass from McKenrick (Sutch pass from McKenrick)
S -- Gouff 32 pass from Justin Morgan

RUSHING--Smithsburg, Damuth 15-66, Smith 12-61, Daniels 12-54, Alexander 2-14, Morgan 6-13, Gouff 2-11. Williamsport, Russ 15-32, Sutch 3-24, Bandeff 1-0, Githens 1-0, McKenrick 4-(minus 4).
PASSING--Smithsburg, Morgan 4-8-0-69, Damuth 0-1-0-0. Williamsport, McKenrick 13-17-1-150.
RECEIVING--Smithsburg, Gouff 1-32, Parks 1-20, Ganley 1-14, Damuth 1-13. Williamsport, Sutch 8-97, Russ 3-34, Willis 1-14, Smith 1-5.

SmithWillFirst downs1611Rushes-yards49-21924-52Passing yards69150Comp-Att-Int4-9-013-17-1Total offense58-28841-202Punts-avg.2-35.03-36.7Penalties-yards4-316-50Fumbles-lost3-11-0
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