Hereford 20, Middletown 9
Middletown's Josh Keeney sat with his head bowed, searching for some way of explaining what happened in the second half of the Knights' 20-9 loss to Hereford in today's Maryland 2A championship game at Ravens Stadium.
The Knights, in search of their school's first state football title, took a 9-0 lead into halftime behind 83 yards from their punishing senior tailback. But in the second half, Hereford forced two turnovers, held the Knights to 16 yards of offense and two first downs and gained 199 of their 299 total yards.
"I guess they just came out more pumped up than us," said Keeney, who finished with 98 yards on 19 carries. "And they took it away from us."
In front of a crowd of 6,000, Hereford (13-0) won for the 26th time in a row and ended the Knights' 10-game winning streak. Middletown (11-2) has reached the postseason 12 times and the state championship three times but has not won a title.
Hereford's Adam Goloboski (26 carries, 150 yards) scored from two yards out with 8 minutes 28 seconds left in the game to give the Bulls their first lead, 13-9.
Hereford's defense shut the door on the Knights four plays later.
Middletown went from its 36-yard line to the Hereford 46 on a four-yard run by Keeney and a 14-yard burst by senior Adam Ellison (nine carries, 51 yards). On the next play, however, Hereford sophomore defensive end Bill Rueter batted a Middletown pass in the air and leaped to pick it off. Rueter's interception and 10-yard return set up the Bulls at the Middletown 40-yard line. Four plays later, Goloboski scored to put the game away.
"Shoot, right before the interception, I thought we were going in for a touchdown," Middletown quarterback Tyler Lushbaugh said. "I don't know how [Rueter] caught that ball, he made a heck of a play. I was going for the slant, and it was wide open."
Middletown scored on the game's opening possession, going 82 yards in 7:48 and scoring on a 14-yard pass from Lushbaugh to senior David Haertel.
Lushbaugh froze the Bulls' defense on the play with a fake to Keeney, who had carried the ball five times for 39 yards on the drive. The Knights muffed the snap on the ensuing extra point.
Hereford responded by driving from its 16-yard line to the Middletown 5 in 13 plays, but the Knights' defense stiffened, forcing Hereford to turn the ball over on downs.
The Knights' Will Gawler kicked a 21-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to make it 9-0. Hereford responded early in the second half, however, when sophomore quarterback Andy DePaola hit Pat Butt on a 48-yard touchdown pass. After not attempting a pass in the first half, DePaola went 4 for 6 for 92 yards in the second.