A smashing team effort on defense and one perfectly executed offensive play enabled an emotionally charged Fallston get by visiting Joppatowne, 7-6, in a battle of unbeaten football teams last night.
It marked the third straight week Fallston (5-0) had to come from behind to win.
This time, the touchdown drive followed Tom Wirth's block on a Joppatowne punt, the home team getting the ball at the Mariners' 20. Three plays later, freshman Matt Sutphin hit off the ZTC right side behind 270-pound Russell Cook and charged 7 untouched yards into the end zone.
The play came with 3:34 left in the third quarter, and senior place-kicker Matt Buckleman promptly untied it with a successful conversion.
Joppatowne scored its touchdown in the final minute of the first half when Alonzo McDowell intercepted a Brad Thomas pass at the goal line and raced 100 yards down the sideline, breaking into the clear at the Fallston 35. Cable Miller's attempted extra point was a low line drive into a wall of Fallston defenders.
Senior tackle Chris Harrison sparked a Fallston defensive effort that allowed four first downs (two in each half) and caused the visitors to lose four fumbles.
"The kids did a great job of adjusting to Joppatowne's speed," Fallston coach Dave Cesky said. "We forced their option plays harder than they probably had seen and they made some mistakes."
Aside from McDowell's --, Joppatowne reached the Fallston 45 once, but for the most part it was a case of run a couple of plays and fumble or being forced into a punting situation.
Joppatowne came up with a couple of big first-half plays of its own. Andre Turner thwarted one Cougars drive when he intercepted a Thomas pass in the end zone, and a hit on Thomas forced a fourth-down fumble and Lamar Williams recovered for Joppatowne.
Fallston lost a touchdown one play in front of McDowell's interception when an ineligible receiver downfield erased a 7-yard pass from Thomas to Wirth, who was back at his tight end spot after subbing for Thomas at quarterback when the starter sprained an ankle in the John Carroll game last week.
Thomas went all the way at quarterback and defensive back, not visibly hampered by his sore ankle.
Fallston did a good job of controlling the ball, although Sutphin (22-for-136) and Thomas (13-for-57) must have thought defensive lineman Miller was welded to them.
Joppatowne had one final effort when quarterback Matt Berger passed from his own goal line to McDowell, who made a leaping catch near midfield but stumbled on the play.