It was an easy decision for Long Reach Coach Pete Hughes. He had powerful running back Josh Brown at his disposal, and a crucial win over No. 20 River Hill was at stake.

He was going for two.

With 45 seconds remaining and his Lightning trailing by one, Hughes's gamble paid off. Brown plunged into the end zone to give the Lightning a thrilling 15-14 victory yesterday in a matchup of Howard County football leaders. River Hill missed a 32-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds.

"It was just a feeling that we had," Hughes said. "Extra points are not automatic. When you kick an extra point, there are a lot of factors that go in on it: the snap, the hold and the kick. When you're three yards away and you have a good offensive line, it's almost a no-brainer."

The win vaults Long Reach (7-1, 7-1) into first place in the county standings by a half-game over River Hill (7-1, 6-1). The Hawks had won three straight over Long Reach, including a 52-21 romp last season.

"They're a good team, but we had a lot of incentive to win," Brown said. "After the loss last year, we never forgot it. It's just been in our blood, boiling."

Yesterday, River Hill appeared to demoralize the large homecoming crowd at Long Reach when running back Nick Campanaro's 15-yard run made the score 14-0 with 6 minutes 49 seconds left in the third quarter.

That score seemed to spark the Lightning, though.

Brown (16 carries, 145 yards) scored on a seven-yard run on Long Reach's next possession, and the defense forced River Hill to punt on its next four drives.

With less than two minutes remaining, Long Reach running back Keith Richardson returned a punt 53 yards. Then, on third and 15 from the Hawks 19-yard line, quarterback Ray Gilbert hit wideout Jordan Metzger for a touchdown with 45 seconds left to make the score 14-13. It was Metzger's third catch of the season.

"It was my first time making a big play like that," Metzger said. "I had to make it, and it just felt so good."

Down by one, Hughes turned to Brown.

"I was glad that he trusted me like that," Brown said. "I knew that I couldn't let anyone down."

Senior running back Josh Brown squeezes across the goal line for Long Reach's winning two-point conversion.Long Reach Coach Pete Hughes is doused with water following his team's come-from-behind homecoming victory, after the Lightning trailed 14-0.