It appeared the Winters Mill pass would sail harmlessly out of bounds.
Manchester Valley's Myers Smith made sure it didn't.
Smith's leaping interception in the back of the end zone was the pivotal play in Manchester Valley's 21-0 win over Winters Mill on Friday night.
It occurred with Manchester Valley holding just a 7-0 lead over the Falcons midway through the second quarter. Winters Mill was attempting to answer when quarterback Patrick Brown floated a pass into the corner of the end zone.
Smith extended both arms, made the grab and was able to keep a foot in bounds.
"I saw the ball coming my way and I just knew I had the chance to make the play," Smith said.
The Mavericks (6-3, 3-2 county) desperately needed one. Manchester Valley entered the game on a two-game losing streak and had four first-half turnovers against Winters Mill.
But after the interception, the Mavericks featured their rushing attack and took control.
Mavericks senior Ethan Bare rushed for a career-high 214 yards on 23 bruising carries. After Smith's momentum-changing interception, Bare had a 44-yard scamper that set up a 24-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Trevor Fuller to give the Mavericks a 14-0 lead.
The Manchester Valley defense bailed out a Mavericks offense that had five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles). The Mavericks held Winters Mill to just 209 total yards. That meant plenty of tackles for Bare at linebacker and senior lineman Keenan Black, who has U.S. Marines ambitions after high school.
Winters Mill was threatening to score a touchdown on its final possession before a crunching tackle on fourth-and-goal.
"If they can't score, they can't win," Bare said. "We've been preaching that all year long."
Logan Garland had two touchdowns for the Mavericks and led the team with four receptions. But he left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury after making a leaping pass break-up in the end zone. It's the latest in a stretch of setbacks to starters.
"We've dealt with some nagging injuries," Manchester Valley coach Tony Shermeyer said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to get healthy and move towards playing our best football of the season heading into the playoffs."
The Mavericks remain the top seed in the Class 1A North region, where just two teams entered the week with records of .500 or better.