In the end, it was just a matter of hold onto the football.
Despite four costly fumbles, the most it had surrendered in one game except for its lone defeat. Friendly (10-1) hung on to beat Loch Raven (10-1) of Towson, 19-14, yesterday in a Maryland State A semifinal playoff game at High Point.
The victory sends the Patriots to the title game where they will face top-ranked Seneca Valley Saturday at 1 p.m. at High Point.
"They're the favorite. They're the No. 1 ranked team in the area. They're supposed to win," said Friendly coach Jim Crawford. "We're just happy . . . to get there. If we lose, we lose. But . . . we don't plan to lose."
The Patriots had to survive two fourth-quarter scares, however, before they could look ahead.
After Skip Wainwright put Friendly ahead by the winning margin, Loch Raven, which began play with a 17-game winning streak, started from its 10 following the kickoff. In 10 plays the Raiders moved to the Patriot 43, before Kamal Sirageldin was intercepted by Scott Schrame with 5:45 remaining.
Friendly was then able to run off six plays before having to yield the ball with 3:19 left. Loch Raven, faced with virtually its last chance, started at its 13. Again the Raiders moved the ball, this time to the Friendly 42, before Sirageldin was forced to unload the ball under pressure and Dave Frazier intercepted. That was the game as the Patriots ran out the clock.
"The pass rush was real good on the play," Frazier said, "and it was just a bad pass." Did he have any fears of dropping the ball? "No way," he answered. "I had missed too many of them already. I just wanted to make sure I held on."