Four Harford County football teams went into region playoff battles Friday night, but only Bel Air came out as a survivor to play next week.
The Bobcats (10-1) delivered a shutout at Aberdeen, winning 28-0 in Class 3A North semifinal play. Fallston lost 35-6 at Kent Island in a 2A East semifinal and Havre de Grace was beaten, 40-34, in two overtimes by visiting Kent County in a 1A East semifinal.
Bel Air will play at Franklin next week for the region championship. Franklin, the defending 3A state champion, beat Milford Mill, 47-24.
In Bel Air's win the Bobcats did what they needed to do and what Aberdeen couldn't afford to allow them to do: run the ball and take time off the clock.
"What happened was, weather wise, cold wise, with what they do is throw the ball up and stuff like that and have guys go and get it. It wasn't conducive to what they do," Bobcats coach David Huryk said. "They say, big running teams travel well and that's what we are."
Evidence of that was never clearer than in the opening possession of the second half. Already leading 14-0 on the strength of two second quarter touchdown runs, Bel Air took more than 10 minutes off the clock with a 16-play, 79-yard drive. Seven penalties – three against bel Air – muddied the drive. Of Aberdeen's four, two were offsides penalties on third and six downs. The other two were helmet-to-helmet infractions, followed by unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following the play. That moved the ball to the Aberdeen 13-yard line.
Brad Casale (26 carries, 154 yards) ran for a score, but one of the Bel Air penalties nullified it. Three plays later, quarterback Daniel Webber scored from a yard out. Webber was stuffed at the line, but bounced back and raced into the corner.
Brendan Yetter ended Aberdeen's ensuing drive, picking off an Reggie Washington pass and returning the ball 35 yards to the Aberdeen 45.
Eleven plays later, Devin Bowers (13 carries, 63 yards) ran four yards for his second touchdown of the night with four minutes left to play.
The game had been scoreless until midway through the second quarter, when a few runs by Casale and a little luck for the Bobcats turned into points. Casale raced for a 49-yard gain, but about 40 yards into it, fumbled. Aberdeen made the recovery, but was called out of bounds, giving the ball back to Bel Air at the Eagles' seven. Bowers ran two yards a short time later to get the Bobcats on the scoreboard.
The Bobcats also scored on their next possession. Casale had the big plays, running 18 yards on first down from the Aberdeen 47 and then 22 yards for the touchdown.
A facemask call on the scoring run was assessed on the kickoff. From the Aberdeen 45, the Bobcats went for the onsides kick and it worked. Bel Air recovered and went looking for more points, but an offensive pass interference penalty thwarted the drive.
Aberdeen (9-2) could do nothing offensively. Ben Richardson finished with 61 yards on 10 carries, but 46 came on four runs against the Bobcats' second team defense. Washington completed one of five passes for negative two yards. He added 45 yards on five carries.
"They came in and outplayed us today, the better team won," Eagles coach John Brooks said.
Havre de Grace (7-4) found itself in a back-and-forth battle with Kent County.
Havre de Grace quarterback Jack Eberhardt threw for 233 yards and five touchdowns in the loss. Josh Penn was the main target, hauling in three of the scoring strikes, including a 76-yard touchdown reception with 1:10 to play. The potential winning extra-point kick was blocked, forcing the overtime.
Penn also caught scoring passes of 20 and six yards, while Chris Harris caught the other two. Those passes covered six and eight yards, the latter in the first overtime.
Kent County also scored on a pass play in the first overtime and, after Havre de Grace failed to score on its second overtime possession, went back to the play to win the game..
Cougars lose, too
Fallston (7-4) was able to score once in the loss at Kent Island. The Buccaneers had built up a 21-0 first half lead, before the Cougars used a 15-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Stump to Jake Brelesky to avoid the shutout.