Getting ahead of Friday’s projected dangerous weather, the North Harford and host Fallston football teams met Thursday night to close out the regular season with their annual rivalry game.
An undefeated season for the Cougars was up for grabs, while the Hawks were just trying to finish above .500.
North Harford (5-4) pulled off the upset, beating Fallston (8-1), 23-7, in Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference play.
“We prepared, we watched film, over and over and over again,” Hawks coach Justin Martinek said. “Repped against tendencies, different defenses, I knew their [defensive] coordinator was going to give me different looks. Studying film and taking advantage of what they give us.”
The Cougars came in averaging 50 points per game, and had not scored less than 33 all season.
It appeared they might be heading for another big total early Thursday. After a three-and-out to open the game, the Cougars and their no-huddle offense jumped ahead on their second possession.
Fallston quarterback Aiden Dixon completed two passes on the drive, both to Dylan Wheeler, to pick up 18 yards on third-and-2 and then a 20-yard touchdown with 8:07 left in the opening quarter.
Jason Roberts added the extra point and the Cougars, up 7-0, were seemingly on their way to a ninth straight win.
But the Hawks responded and in a big way.
“I think we just wanted it more, we were more physical, we had more drive,” Hawks junior quarterback Owen Smith said.
It was Smith who led a North Harford offense that moved the ball, took time off the clock and finished drives.
The Hawks ran the ball four times on their next possession, but it was two big pass plays that made the difference. The first attempt was incomplete, but a pass-interference penalty produced a first down.
Three plays later, Smith threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Josh Garrett, and freshman kicker Lukas Smithson tied the game at 7 with his extra point.
The Hawks also scored on their next drive, with Tristian DeVoe carrying the ball on 11 of 12 plays before scoring a 1-yard touchdown to put the Hawks ahead, 13-7, with 3:12 to play in the half.
Smithson’s extra-point attempt was blocked, but the Hawks had a surprise coming. They recovered an onside kick to keep possession.
North Harford took over at the Fallston 39, and on first down, Smith completed a pass to Brian Hauer for 35 yards to the Cougars’ 4-yard line.
A strong stand by the Cougars defense forced the Hawks into a field-goal attempt, but Smithson easily made the 27-yard kick to put North Harford ahead 16-7 with 1:53 left in the half.
Fallston tried to add points in the final minute, but time ran out with Dixon scrambling for 16 yards to the Hawks’ 10.
The Cougars had the ball near the Hawks’ 10 in the third quarter, but on third-and-2, Dixon’s pass into the end zone was intercepted by Hauer.
That’s when Smith started to take over, rushing for 17 and 37 yards to put the Hawks in scoring position. A big pass to Hauer was erased by a penalty, and Smith was intercepted by Ben Ziervogel on the next play.
But Fallston couldn’t move the ball. After a quick three-and-out, North Harford took over at the Cougars’ 47.
DeVoe had a 7-yard run on fourth-and-4 to keep the drive alive and Cruz Cespedes ran for 26 yards to the Cougars’ 6 on third-and-2.
Garrett Reinecke lost 4 yards on first down, but Smith (17 carries for 122 yards) rumbled 10 yards on the next snap for the biggest touchdown of the night. Smithson’s extra point made it 23-7 with 6:19 to play.
Fallston tried to answer immediately. Dixon and Wheeler connected for 38 yards, and with a penalty added on, the Cougars had a first-and-10 at the Hawks’ 12.
Dixon ran for 9 yards on first down, but Evan Bradley-Dozier was dropped for a 1-yard loss on second down. Bradley-Dozer got the yard back on the next play, but on fourth-and-1, Dixon’s pass fell incomplete.
North Harford moved the ball right down the field on the ensuing drive, but fumbled the ball away.
Fallston took over and picked up a first down before Dixon (17-for-25 for 204 yards) was intercepted by Josh Garrett.
“I think they were stronger, more physical than we anticipated,” Cougars coach Keith Robinson said. “We shot ourselves in the foot early, we knew they would be up for this game. We know, them kind of being .500 and us being undefeated ... this would make their season.”
Aberdeen 28, C. Milton Wright 21
The Eagles (3-5) closed the regular season with a road win over the Mustangs (3-6) in UCBAC play.
Carter Goscinski threw three touchdown passes for C. Milton Wright, on each to Malik Cossey, Rocco Polesovsky and Michael Takusi.
Edgewood 34, Bel Air 15
The Rams (6-3) closed out the regular season Saturday with a UCBAC win over the visiting Bobcats (4-5).
Edgewood quarterback Larry Briceno-Lopez finished 12-for-18 for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
Jonathan King led the Rams’ ground game with 101 yards and a 2-point conversion on 13 carries, while Lavar Banks added 10 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Timi Oyekunle (seven carries for 46 yards) and Isaiah Megginson (one carry for 13 yards) also scored for the Rams. Megginson also had a 2-point conversion.
Isaiah Martin had five receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
Kavon Brown (eight tackles), Kameron Rankin (seven tackles), Akwan Mull (six tackles, two forced and fumble recoveries), Avon Griffin (six tackles), Jahmir Torres (five tackles) and Oyekunle (five tackles) led the Rams’ defense.
Bel Air quarterback Ashton Grewe was 13-for-19 for 90 yards and one touchdown, while Tre Dennis had four catches for six yards and a touchdown.
Grewe (eight carries for 81 yards) ran for the Bobcats’ other score. Nate Furrow added 48 yards on 15 carries.
Perryville 7, Bo Manor 6
The Panthers (5-4) closed the regular reason with a road win over the host Eagles (4-5) on Saturday.
The seedings and schedules are set for the first round of region playoffs.
This year’s playoffs were expanded to include all eligible teams and the number of classifications grew from four to six. The alteration was approved in September by the state football committee by a 12-1 vote to accommodate COVID-related postponements and cancellations during the regular season.
Teams were also given the choice to opt out, but all 11 local teams are competing and play gets underway Friday.
Class 1A North
Top seed Havre de Grace (6-2) will host eighth seed The SEED School (1-4), while fourth seed Joppatowne (3-4) will host fifth seed Patterson Mill (2-6). Both games are set for 7 p.m. Friday.
Class 1A East
Top seed Perryville (5-4) has a bye and will host the Bo Manor (4-5)-Snow Hill (3-5) winner next week.
Class 1A-2A East
Top seed Harford Tech (7-1) drew a bye and will host the Parkside (4-4)-Cambridge-South Dorchester (4-4) winner next week.
Fallston (8-1) will host North East (1-8) on Friday at 7 p.m.
Class 2A East
Fourth seed North Harford (5-4) will host fifth seed North Caroline (5-4), while eighth seed C. Milton Wright (3-6) will visit top seed Kent Island (8-0). Both games are set for Friday at 7 p.m.
Class 3A North
Second seed Edgewood (6-3) will host seventh seed Aberdeen (3-5) on Friday at 7 p.m., while sixth seed Bel Air (4-5) will visit third seed Westminster (6-3) Saturday at 7 p.m.