The thud reverberated all over Harford County.
It was the sound of C. Milton Wright's 39-game regular-season winning streak being ground into the turf of its field.
A two-point conversion run by Terry Vail turned out to be the difference, as Bel Air (4-3, 4-2) thwarted the No. 6 Mustangs, 14-13, last night.
"It was destiny," shouted Bel Air assistant coach Doug Dempsey, as head coach Bruce Riley stood by, his face split by a wide grin.
In Riley's first year as head coach, the Bobcats started slowly, losing their first three games. Since then they have racked up four wins, each one more impressive than the last.
"It was just a feeling we all had," said senior fullback Dick Barwick, who chewed up huge chunks of yardage between the tackles, especially in the first half.
"This was the toughest, most serious week of practice we've had, and I don't know, it was just a feeling. We came in thinking we were unbeatable."
Dempsey said, "Our defense was our best offense. They did a good job of shutting us down in the second half, but our defense was just great."
Jeremy Chavers, Mike Ballard, Brian Seccurro and Joe Strazzire led the determined unit.
Wright (6-1, 4-1) recovered two Bel Air fumbles to thwart drives inside the Mustangs' 25, and on the other side, Dave Polesne intercepted a pass and Mike Flurry recovered a fumble.
The home team had two possessions inside of the final five minutes. On one fourth down, Ballard and Seccurro pressured quarterback Mike Schmidt into throwing the ball away, and on the other (after a first-down pass to Fisher at the 24), Schmidt went wide on an option, chose to run and was smacked down by Strazzire short of the first down with 1:10 left.
Bel Air, the last team to beat the Mustangs in the regular season (October 1989), took charge from the opening whistle, getting a 33-yard runback off the kickoff and a drive that finally was stopped at the Wright 16 when Terry Vail fumbled and Jason Tharpe recovered for Wright.
The visitors showed separate strengths in reaching the end zone on their two touchdowns. Vail's 1-yard plunge on the third play of the second quarter capped a 90-yard, 12-play drive, and after Wright had gone ahead, 7-6, on its next possession, Vail raced 80 yards to score, after a block from Victor Smith got him loose at about his own 30.
Vail got what turned out to be the winning points on a last-ditch pitch from quarterback Tony Belcastro, falling into the end zone at the corner marker.
Sandwiched between was a six-play drive by Wright that went 80 yards. The big play was a 53-yard ramble by Tharpe, who was slowed up by Polesne and tackled by Mike Deal and Strazzire at the Bel Air 21.
Four straight Tharpe carries pushed the ball into the end zone, the last one from a yard away.
Wright closed the gap on two third-quarter pass plays. Schmidt hooked up with Duane Fisher for 26 yards to the Bel Air 47, and then went to Fisher again. The 6-foot-2 receiver caught the ball behind defender Polesne at the 15 and went in untouched.
A 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (Fisher's high-stepping strut into the end zone from the 3-yard line) pushed the ball back to the 18, and Chris Streett's attempted 36-yard extra point was low and way off to the right.