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Aberdeen ekes out 23-21 win over Bel Air

When Bel Air visited Aberdeen for an Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference football game Thursday night, something had to give. Both were undefeated, tied atop the conference's Chesapeake Division, and were separated by just tenths of points in the Class 3A North region standings.

No. 15 Aberdeen (7-0, 4-0) eked out a 23-21 win on Owen Smith's 25-yard field goal with 2:26 to play. It was Smith's missed extra point earlier in the quarter that allowed Bel Air to cling to a 21-20 lead.

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"Tonight we ran into an extremely tough football team who did a great job at what they do, control the ball," Aberdeen coach John Brooks said. "The kids persevered, and we scored enough points to win the game."

The Bobcats (6-1, 3-1) went ahead 21-14 in the third quarter on Keegan McHugh's 4-yard run and Jay Zorzi's kick.

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The Eagles pulled to within a point early in the fourth on Reggie Washington's keeper around the left end. Smith's missed extra-point attempt, wide left, set up the late heroics.

Through the first half, nothing was settled. Bel Air took the opening kickoff and marched 60 yards in 11 plays to go ahead.

Brad Casale (30 carries, 175 yards) was the workhorse on the drive, carrying the ball seven times for 38 yards. Casale's longest run, 13 yards, came on a fourth-and-4 from the Aberdeen 26. McHugh caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Webber on the next play.

Aberdeen put together its own scoring drive on its first possession to answer Bel Air. The Eagles moved the ball 60 yards in 12 plays.

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Aberdeen converted two fourth downs on the drive. Washington passed 10 yards to Isaiah Jackson on fourth-and-9, and Ben Richardson ran for a 6-yard score on fourth-and-goal from the 6. The extra-point gave Aberdeen the lead.

The Bobcats were equally impressive and successful on their second drive. Moving 71 yards in 12 plays, Bel Air regained the lead.

Casale again had the big play on fourth down. His 23-yard burst around left end on fourth-and-3 set up the Bobcats at the Aberdeen 13-yard line.

Two snaps later, Jack Lewis scored on a 5-yard run. McHugh caught a pass from Webber for a two-point conversion to put the Bobcats ahead 14-7.

Aberdeen was up to the challenge, scoring in the final minute of the half to tie the game at 14.

The Eagles needed just five plays, highlighted by Washington's 46-yard pass to Richardson. The same combination worked again on second-and-13 from the Bel Air 18. Washington lobbed the ball toward the front corner and Richardson outjumped the defender to make the catch. Smith added the extra point.

"It was a great, hard-fought game on both sides," Bobcats coach David Huryk said. "It was a fun game to be a part of."

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