Preparing his team for the expected defensive onslaught of rival Randallstown, Hereford football coach Steve Turnbaugh spent the bulk of last week preaching the importance of offensive patience.
In the second half of yesterday's Baltimore County showdown, however, it was a barrage of big plays that led No. 2 Hereford to 28 straight points in a 34-6 win over the host No. 7 Rams.
Tied at 6 late in the third quarter, the Bulls broke loose by turning three forced turnovers into three straight highlight-reel touchdowns - starting with a 97-yard pass play from quarterback Andy DePaola to wide receiver Aaron Moore - within a five-minute span.
"We just figured we had nothing to lose at that point," said Turnbaugh. "They were playing us up very, very tight. They weren't respecting our pass at all, and Aaron Moore can flat-out fly when he gets the opening."
All of Hereford's 34 points were set up by turnovers, including five interceptions thrown by Rams quarterback Marcus McLain. Randallstown (1-2) gave up seven turnovers in suffering its second straight loss.
"We made too many mistakes to win," said Rams coach Albert Howard. "We were in the game at halftime. Then they made a couple great plays. It snowballed fast. ... I was really surprised. We weren't able to stop it. We're good enough to, we're capable enough to, but we didn't."
Embroiled in a defensive battle in the third quarter, Hereford (3-0) regained possession when defensive back Ryan Farrell picked off a pass at the Hereford 5-yard line. Two plays later, from the 3, DePaola wound up and hit Moore on a fly pattern down the left sideline, and the senior took it the rest of the way.
"Both teams were running on emotion for a long time. We just needed to calm down," said DePaola, who threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns. "I think that big play really opened it up for us."
After recovering a fumbled handoff near midfield, Hereford again went to the air, with DePaola finding Matt Jones down the right sideline for a 54-yard score. Before the end of the quarter, yet another turnover led to Alex Butt's 36-yard burst up the middle to extend the lead to 27-6.
Hereford racked up 227 yards in the half against a Rams team that had allowed just six points over its first nine quarters. For Turnbaugh, whose team on Friday suffered a major blow when starting fullback Ryan Asper broke his hand in practice (he's expected to miss three weeks), the effort was gratifying.
"Our whole game plan was devised around the fullback," said Turnbaugh. "We had to juggle and do things. I'm very proud of this team, because they could have really tucked it in."