Trailing 14-0 entering the fourth quarter of Friday’s night matchup with Eastern Tech, Hereford High was staring at an 0-2 start to its season.
Luckily for the No. 13 Bulls, they were too young to grasp it. Hereford stormed back against the defending Class 2A champ and No. 8 Mavericks, taking a 17-14 overtime decision at CCBC-Essex.
Steve Ruark’s 20-yard field goal in the extra session won it for the Bulls (1-1 overall), who received fourth quarter scores from Tim Bristol and Isaiah Taylor to force overtime. Austin Brown recovered an Eastern Tech (1-1) fumble on the first possession of overtime, putting Hereford in position to complete the comeback.
“They don’t understand what it means to be behind,” said Hereford coach Steve Turnbaugh. “At halftime there was no panic. The coaches were calm and we were going to stick with our game plan.”
“We’re probably one of the best second half teams around,” said Bulls senior running back/defensive back Vince DePaola.
Though Hereford lost its opener at No. 12 North Harford, 31-21, last Friday, Turnbaugh lauded the Bulls’ moxie after falling behind 17-0. He wasn’t excited after a lackluster effort in the first half Friday evening, but the Bulls weren’t that over the final 15 minutes of regulation.
Bristol opened the fourth with a 24-yard touchdown run, ending a 50-yard drive that was setup by a fumble recovery by junior defensive back Will Bittner. Bittner came back with an interception with 7 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in regulation.
Four plays later, Taylor took a screen pass from Jay Patti, found the sidelines and went 42 yards for a touchdown. Taylor, a transfer from Dulaney, is arguably the Bulls’ most talented offensive performer.
“I was asking for that play all game and I got it,” said Taylor. “Our backs were against the walls but we looked in Jay’s eyes and knew he wanted it. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we knew we had to go in the fourth quarter.”
Eastern Tech got a five-yard run from Bannister to start overtime, but a bad exchange between him and quarterback Brad Hager led to Brown’s recovery. The Bulls advanced to the 3-yard line, then Roark split the uprights to set off a celebration.
“We never gave up, we had leadership out there,” said Roark, a transfer from North Harford. “We had a bad snap on a field goal, and I got that out of my head.”
Roark’s flail on a 24-yard attempt was the perfect end to a terrible opening half for Hereford. The Bulls managed only 55 yards along with turnovers via an interception and a fumble.
Eastern Tech used a Hager 12-yard pass to senior Devonn White and three-yard throw to Bob Marshall for the 14-0 advantage. The Mavericks had 47 yards in the second half.
“They [Hereford] toughen up on defense,” said Eastern Tech coach Mark Mesaros. “They made something out of nothing. They responded when the chips were down and we didn’t.”
Last season, Eastern Tech climbed out a 10-point fourth quarter to stun the Bulls in Parkton. It was deja-vu all over again, this time in the Bulls’ favor.
“We’re not a team of superstars,” said Turnbaugh. “This is an inexperience group and everybody has to do their part for us to have a shot.”
Hereford 17, Eastern Tech 14
Eastern Tech-White 12 pass from Hager (Pritchett kick)
Eastern Tech-Marshall 2 pass from Hager (Pritchett kick)
Hereford-Bristol 24 run (Roark kick)
Hereford-Taylor 42 pass from Patti (Roark kick)
Hereford-Roark 20 field goal