Trailing in front of the home crowd by nine at halftime Friday night, top-seeded Fallston started the third quarter needing to make up ground on visiting fourth seed Easton.
The guests had other plans and started the second half by recovering an onside kick.
That inauspicious beginning could've signaled the beginning of two very rough two quarters, but the Cougars were undeterred. Fallston outscored Easton, 15-0, over the last 24 minutes, rallying for a 27-21 victory and advancing to the regional title game.
In next Friday's 2A East final, the Cougars will host third-seed Kent Island at 7 p.m.
In the first half Friday, Fallston was plagued by mishaps and turnovers.
"We made an awful lot of mistakes in the first half," Fallston Head Coach Dave Cesky said. "We had a pass bounce off our player's helmet and get returned by Easton for a touchdown. We turned the ball over four times, which we haven't done all season, I don't think. Some of it was just bad luck, but we also missed some tackles. Easton's running backs were also faster than we originally thought."
After forcing three-and-out punts on the first three Easton possessions, the Cougars finally conceded the game's first points on the aforementioned interception return with three minutes left in the first quarter. Easton nailed the extra point to lead, 7-0.
Before the first quarter expired, Fallston pieced together a scoring drive capped by a five-yard touchdown run by Andrew Monaghan. Fallston kicker Luke Reuter's extra-point attempt was blocked and Fallston trailed, 7-6.
In the second quarter, Easton answered Fallston's score with a second touchdown, this time running into the Cougars' end zone from 35 yards out. The extra point gave the guests a 14-6 lead.
On Fallston's next possession, the Cougars drove to the Easton five, and Monaghan again wrapped things up with a five-yard touchdown run. Fallston's two point conversion failed and the Cougars trailed, 14-12.
Easton wasted little time putting its next points on the board, returning Fallston's ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. The final tally of the second quarter came on a converted point-after kick that gave Easton a 21-12 edge.
After intercepting a pass during the Cougars' final possession of the half, Easton tried to extend its lead with a 37-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half, but the attempt went wide.
Following Easton's recovered onside kick that started the third quarter, the Cougars started their comeback, taking possession of the ball on a punt and pushing to the opposing two. Just a few feet from the Easton end zone, Fallston again went to Monaghan, who delivered his third touchdown of the evening. Reuter kicked the extra point, cutting Easton's lead to 21-19.
Early in the fourth quarter, Fallston once again drove to the Easton two. Monaghan then barreled across the goal line for his fourth touchdown. The Cougars then converted the two-point play to go up, 27-21.
With a little over five minutes left, Easton picked off one last pass and took over just inside Fallston's territory. The Cougar defense held firm, stopping Easton on a fourth-down play. Fallston killed the clock for the rest of the game, preserving the 27-21 victory.
"At halftime, we told them, 'make your tackles, run your routes, stop making mistakes and we'll be okay,'" Cesky said. "We knew that our offensive line was better than Easton's defensive line, so if we could limit our turnovers, it was just a matter of time before we put some points up."
What do the Cougars have to do next week to take a 2A East crown?
"We can't make nearly as many mistakes as we did tonight," Cesky said. "Kent Island is a more disciplined team than Easton, and they'll definitely take advantage of it if we're turning the ball over and missing tackles. If we can play smart, like we have been all season, I think we'll be in good shape."