It’s three yards between the spot of the ball and the goalline on a two-point conversion. There are 47 seconds left and you’re down by one point on the road with an undefeated record on the line.
What do you do?
North Harford head coach Ken Brinkman knew exactly what he was going to do. He called the play nearly two minutes before hand, just before the Hawks made an eight-play, 66-yard drive to put them in position to win.
“I called Brandon [Bayer] right over after Fallston scored to go up and told him, ‘We are going to win this game, and if we score, we are going for two,’” Brinkman told VSN after the game. “After he scored the touchdown [to trail by one], I called a timeout and told them, ‘This is what I’m thinking. I want to know what you guys think.’ They said, ‘Coach, we got you.’”
It was only seconds later that Bayer bulldozed his way off the left guard and into the endzone to put the No. 6 Hawks over the No. 18 Cougars, 36-35, in a battle of unbeatens in the UCBAC Chesapeake division.
“Most definitely,” Fallston head coach Dave Cesky answered if he would have gone for it in the same situation. “He probably went over and asked his kids, ‘What do you want to do?’ We had the same situation against Edgewood a couple years ago. You have all the momentum; there is no reason not to do it.”
Neither team can be disappointed in the game they played. Both had more than 300 yards of total offense, owned a lead in the game, and showed the ability to break through when it was most needed. It truly was a game that came down to who had the ball last.
“The way we were playing defense, I was concerned,” Brinkman said about the 14-0 lead the Cougars ran with in the first 14 minutes of the game. “But when we got the ball and scored, I thought we had a chance. We started to wake up and move the ball, and it came down to who was going to have the ball last.”
Answering the call, North Harford (6-0 overall, 3-0 UCBAC Chesapeake) got within 21-14 at the half and added another two touchdowns in the third quarter to post a 28-21 lead before the Cougars (5-1, 2-1 UBCAC Chesapeake) would see a score again.
“They’ve got some good, skilled kids,” Cesky admitted. “We shut down Cody [Turner] from running what he runs, but Bayer and the fullback [Ben Kenley] are tough, and Cody had the run when he needed it. I think they were patient and didn’t get out of their game plan at all.”
The Bayer and senior fullback Kenley duo were relentless in their pursuit of yards, rushing for 143 yards and 130 yards, respectively and accounting for all five of the Hawks’ touchdowns.
“The holes were great and off-tackle was perfect,” said Bayer, who broke the end zone three times for touchdowns. “I had to bounce off some tackles when I was already five yards down the field, so I had so much room to the run that I would easily get 10 yards.”
But the Fallston offense also had more than 300 yards of total offense, 231 of those yard coming through the air by way of quarterback senior Grant Kelly, who finished the game 13 for 16 with a touchdown pass to senior Justin Sommer on the first drive of the game.
The Cougars also totaled 181 yards on the ground, mostly on the legs of sophomore Marc Badger and senior Andrew Thrasher, who ran for 143 yard with three touchdowns, and 130 yards with two touchdowns, respectively.
There were two times the North Harford defense came in huge, both off interceptions.
Picking the ball off at his own 35-yardline, junior Drew Mullhausen brought a scoring-bound Cougar drive to a halt, setting up a Bayer one-yard touchdown run to take the Hawks’ first lead of the game, 28-21 in the third quarter.
The final interception, coming on the last Fallston offensive play was brought in by senior three-year-starter Nate Brockmeyer, who took a few strides forward before sliding safely to the ground and bringing the game to its soon-to-be end.
“I was just trying to get down the field and get what I could get because that was the initial thought,” Brockmeyer laughed. “But then I heard the team yelling to get down, it clicked that it was the smart thing to do.”
While the loss to North Harford has more than likely bumped Fallston out of contention for the Chesapeake title, the Cougars can still make a strong run at postseason play, starting Thursday when they travel to Elkton.
“You learn that you play tough against a really good team and it needs to carry over to the next game,” Cesky said. “We only talk about one game at a time. We don’t even look at tape a week ahead.”
North Harford will defend its unbeaten mark Thursday against Joppatowne.
“We have to evaluate some things, but the high is going to be playing a short week against Joppatowne, who historically for the last nine years have been pretty good,” Brinkman said. “I think our kids will understand what we have to do to get better and get up on a short week.”
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|No. 6 North Harford 36, No. 18 Fallston 35|
|F-Sommer 3 pass from Kelly (Eichelberger kick)|
|F-Badger 7 run (Eichelberger kick)|
|NH-Kenley 43 run (Lenane kick)|
|F-Badger 6 run (Eichelberger kick)|
|NH-Bayer 21 run (Lenane kick)|
|NH-Kenley 16 run (Lenane kick)|
|NH-Bayer 1 run (Lenane kick)|
|F-Thrasher 1 run (Eichelberger kick)|
|F-Thrasher 3 run (Eichelberger kick)|
|NH-Bayer 4 run (Bayer run)|