BUCS

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Sports -

be­hind 21-0 to Car­o­line in Week 9, struck first to si­lence a bois­ter­ous home con­tin­gent, tak­ing the open­ing kickoff 60 yards on 10 plays, Fin­lay cut­ting from the mid­dle to the left and elud­ing se­nior Jer­main Carter en route to a 15-yard TD.

It was 13-0, Bucs, early in the sec­ond pe­riod, as Jack­son and Thomas hooked up on a short slant from the right to the mid­dle of the field, and the ju­nior wide­out raced 69 yards into the end zone.

The Bucs’ de­fense was stel­lar to that point, re­cov­er­ing a fum­ble by Car­o­line on its first pos­ses­sion and forc­ing a turnover on downs on Kent Is­land’s 29 when Getz tipped a pass.

“We changed the de­fense up a lit­tle bit: we put four peo­ple on the line and stacked three lineback­ers,” se­nior Kent Is­land de­fen­sive end Jeff Kuebel said. “We wanted re­venge from last time. We knew we could beat them, we just had to put in the ef­fort.

“Our of­fense likes to en­cour­age the de­fense, and the de­fense likes to en­cour­age the of­fense,” Kuebel added.

Car­o­line an­swered with its first score, trav­el­ing 60 yards in 10 plays, high­lighted by a 27-yard pass from se­nior QB Cody Pep­per to class­mate Zach Smith (83 yards rush­ing) and a 10-yard Pep­per keeper. Smith fin­ished the drive with a 3-yard run, and Liam Dowdell’s point-af­ter kick made it 13-7, Bucs.

Kent Is­land didn’t wait long to re­tort. Five plays later, on third-and-13 on the 50, Getz hauled in a 48-yard catch down the right side­line, and fol­low­ing a false start, Fin­lay fought his way into the end zone, a 7-yard score cou­pling with sopho­more kicker Joseph Gar­vey’s PAT for a 20-7 lead.

Car­o­line whit­tled the lead to 20-14 on the open­ing pos­ses­sion of the sec­ond half, a 62-yard foray bol­stered by a 23-yard, Joseph Bild­stein run and a 13-yard Bai­ley push; the drive ended with Bai­ley’s 2-yard TD to make 20-14, Kent Is­land. Bild­stein racked up 44 yards on the ground, com­bin­ing with Smith to fill in ably for the ail­ing Man­ship.

The sides swapped punts on the next three goarounds, be­fore Car­o­line started on its own 30 with 2:49 left in the third. The drive ap­peared to be go­ing nowhere, as Bild­stein was dropped for a yard loss and Pep­per was sacked by se­niors Jor­dan Walker and Jor­dan Mar­ciano for a loss of 4. But Smith broke the big­gest play from scrim­mage on the next snap, a 72-yard sprint to Kent Is­land’s 3, Bai­ley bring­ing it home a play later on a 3-yard touch­down for the Bull­dogs’ first lead at 21-20.

Getz’ 27-yard TD catch fol­lowed, the Bucs pulling back ahead 26-21 af­ter the two-point pass was dropped by Getz, set­ting the stage for the fran­tic fin­ish.

Car­o­line limited the big plays in the pre­vi­ous win over the Bucs, but fell prey this time, as Kent Is­land notched nine plays of 10 yards or more — in­clud­ing six of 15-plus yards — part of 330 yards to­tal of­fense. The Bull­dogs fin­ished with 311 yards of of­fense, 257 of it com­ing on the ground.

“That was one thing we talked about: don’t give them the big plays, don’t put the ball on the ground,” Mc­Cormick said. “We gave them the big plays and we put the ball on the ground. In the play­offs, you can’t do that and ex­pect to win.”

The game ended with four straight Pep­per in­com­ple­tions down­field, as Kent Is­land’s sec­ondary met the ball at ev­ery at­tempt and sealed it.

“Our de­fense was very pre­pared for their long passes,” said Getz, who pulls dou­ble­duty as a cor­ner­back. “Our de­fense has been pretty solid, and through­out the game it was re­ally solid; we just made the plays where we had to make them.”

The schools have now split the last four con­tests — Kent Is­land win­ning dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son in 2016 be­fore falling in the re­gion semi­fi­nals as the top seed. Car­o­line blitzed through much of this reg­u­lar sea­son be­fore dis­patch­ing Kent Is­land and lock­ing up the re­gion’s No. 1 spot, but the Bucs re-dis­cov­ered some of their mojo in the sec­ond half of the Week 9 loss. The mo­men­tum car­ried over to the 48-0, Week 10 shel­lack­ing of Queen Anne’s County be­fore the heart-stop­ping play­off win over the Bull­dogs.

“We had a pretty good game plan,” Fer­rag­amo said. “Play­ing them so re­cently, gave us the best scout film you can ever have. They were suc­cess­ful, and we knew they weren’t go­ing to change any­thing. Week 9, we came out flat, we didn’t come out with any pas­sion or en­ergy, so we were a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed in our­selves.

“They were the ones with the swag­ger and at­ti­tude, and we didn’t match it, that’s what we were re­ally con­cen­trat­ing on,” Fer­rag­amo added.

North Car­o­line will grad­u­ate 21 this spring, and it sig­nals the end of the most suc­cess­ful era in pro­gram his­tory. The Bull­dogs went 37-9 over the last four sea­sons, in­clud­ing three play­off ap­pear­ances from 2015 to 2017, the school’s first state semi­fi­nal berth in 2015 be­ing the high­wa­ter mark for suc­cess.

“Our kids played hard, and they left ev­ery­thing on the field, we just didn’t play well enough to get it done in the end,” Mc­Cormick said. “They’re a great group of kids. The thing I’m go­ing to re­mem­ber most about these guys are the great re­la­tion­ships, the time we spent, the sto­ries we had to­gether. I told them be­fore the game, and I told them at the end of the game: our re­la­tion­ship doesn’t end tonight. We had vi­sions of [the sea­son] end­ing in an­other three weeks, but our re­la­tion­ships will keep go­ing.”

Added Franklin: “This team right here, it wasn’t just this year. I think ev­ery­body looks at this year alone, but we’ve been do­ing this for four years. Just this sea­son doesn’t show how we’ve been work­ing all our ca­reers, from Pop Warner to now. We were go­ing to fight un­til the end like we did tonight. We gave it our all.”

Fol­low on Twit­ter @Ay­man_S­tarDem. Email

at aalam@star­dem.com

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Kent Is­land quar­ter­back Trent Jack­son (2) hangs at the edge of the cel­e­bra­tion Fri­day night af­ter his three touch­down passes helped the Buc­ca­neers top un­beaten North Car­o­line 33-29 in a Class 2A East semi­fi­nal.

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