When Bel Air visited Aberdeen in an Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference football game Thursday night, something had to give. Both were undefeated, both tied atop the conference's Chesapeake Division and just tenths of points separated the two in the Class 3A North region standings.
Aberdeen (4-0 league, 7-0) eked out a 23-21 win on Owen Smith's 25-yard field goal with 2:26 to play. It was Smith's missed extra point earlier in the quarter that had Bel Air clinging to a 21-20 lead.
The winning drive started when Aberdeen jarred the ball loose from Bobcats running back Brad Casale. Aberdeen made the recovery at its own 33.
On the first play, Dramel Boykin, who had been held to just eight yards on four carries, broke free for an 38-yard gain to the Bobcats' 29.
The Eagles picked up another first down at the 18 and when Bel Air was flagged for pass interference on third down, the ball was moved to the nine, but it remained third down.
Aberdeen was stopped on third and one, forcing the Eagles to call timeout and send out Smith for the kick.
"Tonight we ran into an extremely tough football team who did a great job at what they do, control the ball," Aberdeen head coach John Brooks said. "The kids persevered and we scored enough points to win the game."
Bel Air (3-1, 6-1) went ahead, 21-14, in the third quarter on Keegan McHugh's four-yard run and Jay Zorzi's kick. During the drive, Aberdeen's Mark Meynisse and Bel Air's Devin Bowers were involved in a bit of a skirmish. Bowers ended up with his helmet off and both players were ejected with just a couple minutes left in the third quarter.
Aberdeen pulled to within a point early in the fourth on Reggie Washington's keeper around left end. Smith's missed kick, wide left, set up the last minute heroics.
"It was a great hard-fought game on both sides, it really was," Bobcats coach David Huryk said. "It was a fun game to be a part of."
Bel Air took the game's opening kick off and marched 60 yards in 11 plays to go ahead.
Brad Casale (30 carries, 175 yards) was the workhorse on the drive, carrying the ball seven times for 38 yards. Casale's longest run of 13 yards came on a fourth and four from the Aberdeen 26. McHugh caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Webber on the next play.
Aberdeen put together its own scoring drive on its first possession to answer Bel Air. The Eagles also moved the ball 60 yards in 12 plays.
Aberdeen converted two fourth downs on the 60-yard, 12-play drive. Washington passed 10 yards to Isaiah Jackson on fourth and nine and Ben Richardson ran for a six yard score on fourth and goal from the six. The extra point gave Aberdeen the lead.
The Bobcats were equally impressive and successful on their second drive. Moving 71 yards in 12 plays, Bel Air regained the lead.
Casale, again, had the big play on fourth down. His 23-yard burst around left end erased fourth and three and set the Bobcats up at the Aberdeen 13-yard line.
Two snaps later, Jack Lewis scored on a 5-yard run. McHugh then caught the conversion pass from Webber to put the Bobcats ahead, 14-7.
Aberdeen was up to the challenge, scoring in the final minute of the half to tie the game at 14.
The Eagles needed just five plays, highlighted by Washington's 46-yard pass to Richardson. That same combination worked again on second and 13 from the Bel Air 18. Washington lobbed the ball up toward the front corner and Richardson out jumped the defender to make the catch. Smith added the PAT.
Perryville (2-2, 5-2) took back the Susquehanna Bowl trophy, beating host Havre de Grace (1-3, 4-3) on the Warriors' homecoming, 34-28, in Chesapeake play.
The game was a see-saw battle that was decided by Elijah Johnson's 66-yard touchdown pass to Tyrell Hollingsworth with 2:27 to play and the Panthers trailing. Tony Smith added the conversion by run.
Jordan Hawthorne had another big night for the Warriors. His 12-yard scoring run had given the his team the 28-26 lead. Hawthorne added a seven-yard touchdown run earlier and for the second straight week, Hawthorne scored from the defensive side of the ball. Hawthorne returned an interception 45 yards to pay dirt in the first quarter to even the score at 6.
Havre de Grace's other points came on Ombre Glover's 59-yard run just 50 seconds into the second half.
In other Chesapeake action, Fallston (2-2, 5-2) won, 35-30, at C. Milton Wright (1-3, 3-4). In Susquehanna play, Edgewood (3-0, 3-4) beat visiting Rising Sun, 12-6; Joppatowne (1-2, 2-5) lost at Bo Manor, 41-13; and Harford Tech (1-1, 2-5) lost at North East, 26-14.