Roll the dice, go for it, take a chance. Any of these cliches fits the gamble that North Harford coach Ken Brinkman took in Friday night's game at Fallston.
Brandon Bayer ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 47 seconds left to pull the Hawks within one point of Fallston. But Brinkman wasn't thinking about ties and overtime. He wanted to go for the win and quickly asked his team. They agreed with their coach, and Bayer ran for the two-point conversion that gave No. 12 North Harford a dramatic 36-35 victory over Fallston in an Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference game.
Bayer ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns and made it clear to his coach that he wanted to go for the win.
"I liked the call," said Bayer. "Championship teams don't kick extra points to tie the game."
The Hawks had found lots of success running left all night, and Bayer ran that way again. He had little trouble getting into the end zone for the two points.
Brinkman isn't usually a gambling coach, but he said there's something about this team that makes him confident about taking more chances than in years past.
"It's time to take the training wheels off," Brinkman said with a smile. "[This team], they believe, and they respond."
The biggest thing North Harford (6-0, 3-0) had to do in this game was rally. Behind the strong play of quarterback Grant Kelly (12-for-15, 217 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions), Fallston (5-1, 2-1) took leads of 14-0 and 21-7 in the first half.
Kelly didn't throw an incomplete pass until the final play of the first half. He led them on three long scoring drives that kept North Harford's defense on the field for much of the first two quarters and seemed to give Fallston confidence.
But North Harford slowly began to come back. The Hawks got great running from both Bayer and Ben Kenley (134 yards and two touchdowns) His 43-yard touchdown run seemed to wake up North Harford after Fallston had taken a 14-0 lead, pushing the Hawks all over the field.
Marc Badger answerd that with a 6-yard touchdown that gave the Cougars a 21-7 edge late in the first half. But North Harford scored 21 straight points for a 28-21 lead late in the third quarter. Fallston answered with 14 consecutive points of its own, seemingly taking command when Andy Thrasher ran for a 2-yard touchdown with 2:37 left in the game.
That wrapped up a 14-play, 77-yard drive and gave the Cougars a 35-28 lead. North Harford didn't blink, bouncing right back to drive 66 yards for the Bayer touchdown with 47 seconds left. Brinkman said the decision to go for two actually had been made after Fallston scored to take its seven-point lead on the previous drive.
The call didn't surprise Fallston coach Dave Cesky, who said he'd also roll the dice in that situation.
"You have all the momentum," Cesky said. "There's no reason not to go for it."