The North Harford Hawks escaped from Fallston on Friday night with a 14-13, week-nine football victory, after they stopped the host Cougars on attempted a game-winning two-point conversion with 20 seconds left in regulation.
The 2012 renewal of the Battle for Northern Harford was just that, a battle that had the large crowd roaring from opening kickoff to final whistle, particularly in the game's final five minutes.
Trailing 14-7, with just over two minutes remaining in the contest, Fallston got the ball back on its own 32 after a North Harford punt and proceeded to drive the ball 68 yards on seven plays, with quarterback Brendan Weinhold capping the drive by scoring a touchdown on a three-yard scramble.
Needing to convert an point-after kick to tie the contest, Cougars coach Dave Cesky instead opted to go for the win with a two-point conversion.
Weinhold rolled out to his right and sprinted toward the end zone, but stopped short of the goal line and tossed out a short pass when he was met by a pack of Hawk defenders. The pass was swatted down by the North Harford secondary, and the Hawks had themselves a one-point win.
The gamble by Cesky wasn't surprising. He went for a win with a two-point try in a game against Edgewood a few years ago, only that time it succeeded.
With the victory, North Harford moved to 7-2 overall, and 5-0 in Chesapeake Division contests, while Fallston fell to 7-2 for the season and 3-2 against Chesapeake opponents.
The win wrapped up the division title for the Hawks, who maintained their one-game lead over second place C. Milton Wright, also a winner Friday, with one game left to play. North Harford, however, holds the tie-breaker by virtue of its win last week against the Mustangs.
North Harford struck first in Friday's contest, as quarterback Nic Hammer capped a drive to the Fallston four yard line with a touchdown scramble. North Harford kicker Sean Bowling hit the extra-point attempt to give the Hawks a 7-0 advantage.
Fallston would not score its first points until the final minute of the third quarter, when Weinhold tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt Alexander. Fallston's Ryan Goode put his extra-point kick through the uprights to tie the game, 7-7.
With 7:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, North Harford wrestled the lead back, as Eric Bayer capped a 59-yard, four-play drive with a 38-yard touchdown sprint. Bowling's kick was good, and the Hawks had the one-point margin that they would take to victory.
Following the Hawks' final touchdown, a strange turn of events took place.
On the ensuing kickoff, a squib right down the middle, the ball bounced off the leg of a Fallston return team member, and right back at the advancing Hawks, who recovered it near midfield. On their first play from scrimmage after the inadvertent onside kick, the Hawks fumbled and Fallston recovered.
Neither team moved the ball on the ensuing two possessions, which set the stage for the final Cougar touchdown drive and the game deciding missed 2-point attempt.
Mustangs beat Eagles
C. Milton Wright jumped ahead with the opening kickoff and then held on with no time left on the clock to beat host Aberdeen, 18-14, in Chesapeake Division play Friday night.
With Hurricane Sandy forecast to hit the area in a matter of days, the Mustangs (4-1, 7-2) and Eagles (3-2, 4-5) put forth a bit of thunder and lightning of their own.
Mustangs' return man, Antwan Ferguson took the opening kickoff at his own 15-yard line, cut through a hole to his left and raced untouched into the zone. A two-point conversion pass gave the Mustangs a 8-0 led just 12 seconds into game.
Aberdeen answered right back, or so it thought, when Eagles' return man Austin Bonsall took the ensuing kickoff some 95 yards to paydirt, only to have the score wiped out by illegal block.
The score remained 8-0 into the second quarter, where CMW kicker Matt Phillips increased the Mustangs lead to 11-0 with a 25-yard field goal.