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Hubs, Rebels focused on rivalry

November 03, 2011|By MARK KELLER | keller@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The North Hagerstown football team is prepared to make sure its next afternoon game doesn’t turn out like its last.

The Hubs will play host to crosstown rival South Hagerstown at Mike Callas Stadium on Saturday afternoon, looking to erase the memory of an upset loss to Williamsport on a Saturday afternoon in early October.

“We had a lot of turnovers and weren’t real focused,” said North lineman Dylan Dopson. “We looked past them. But we took that and learned from it and that will help us execute each and every play.”

The Hubs (7-2) have won three straight since then, including a victory over previously unbeaten Boonsboro last week. They’ve also put themselves in position to earn one of the four playoff berths in Class 3A West with a win over South and a Thomas Johnson loss to Frederick.

“We’re coming off a big win against Boonsboro, and where we’re situated, we have a chance to make the playoffs,” said North coach Dan Cunningham. “But right now, we’re focused on North-South. It’s not a trap game. You either end on a winning note or on a losing note.”

North has won the city game eight straight times and leads the series 29-24-1.

In the grand scheme of things, those figures mean nothing to South coach Toby Peer.

“It’s been mentioned, but it’s not a focus,” Peer said. “You have to compete daily. It’s not about yesterday, not about last year. So we don’t talk a lot about that.”

The Rebels (6-3) are in the midst of their most successful season since 2002, which was also the last year they beat the Hubs.

For some of the South players, Saturday has been a long time coming.

“We lost (to North) on Nov. 5 last year,” said South quarterback Brandon Hess. “On Nov. 8, we got right back to work. We’ve been looking forward to this game ever since.”

One year after running back Anthony Winter shattered school records for the Hubs, Cunningham planned to utilize a more balanced offensive approach in 2011.

Phillip Butler changed those plans in the third week of the season.

Butler rushed for 133 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Oakdale that week and saw his workload increase as a direct result. He’s carried the ball no less than 23 times in the last five games — including a high of 39 against Catoctin two weeks ago — and is just 103 yards shy of breaking the single-season rushing total of 1,702 yards set by Winter last season.

“The guys up front have really dictated that change,” Cunningham said. “Right now, we’re very fortunate to run the ball the way we are. But we still have that pass in the pocket if we need it.”

Quarterback J.T. Root has completed 33 of 80 passes for 407 yards this season, with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Josh Hall is his favorite target, catching 19 passes for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“We’ve been working and practicing really hard this week,” Hall said. “This is my third North-South game. I’m 2-0 against them, and I really want to win and end my senior season in a good way.”

The Rebels have taken a much more balanced offensive approach, with three backs sharing the majority of the carries in the ground game. Isiaha Smith leads the way with 94 carries for 520 yards and nine touchdowns, followed by Hess (77-447-4) and Ahmere Ware (50-424-4).

Hess has also been dangerous in the passing game, completing 63 of 119 passes for 860 yards. He’s thrown 10 touchdown passes and only one interception.

C.J. Davis is the primary target for Hess, catching 28 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns.

No matter the result, the Rebels are guaranteed their first back-to-back seasons at .500 or better since 2000-02. But a victory would give South just its seventh season with seven wins or more.

“It certainly would be a big win. It would be win No. 7 and we’ll have come a long way from last year,” Peer said. “Win, lose or draw, this game brings people in the community together. It’s the ultimate in competition, and that’s why I’m in the game — to compete.”

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