FROSTBURG -- Ramapo College held on to defeat Frostburg State for the Eastern College Athletic Conference-South Division III football championship, 20-14, yesterday at windy Bobcat Stadium.
After threatening to self-destruct in the first half, the mistake-marred Bobcats battled back from a 20-6 deficit and had an apparent victory replaced by defeat with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
Frostburg (9-2) had pulled to within 20-14 on Rory McTigue's 1-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion pass from quarterback Mike Jones to Warren Tweedy with 3 minutes, 27 seconds, then regained the ball after the Roadrunners punted.
With 80 yards to go for the winning score and 1 minute, 35 seconds on the clock, Jones connected with Tweedy for gains of 23 yards and 42 yards to advance to the Ramapo 20. But on fourth down, with no timeouts and 26 seconds left in the game, the Bobcats breathed their last gasp.
Jones lofted a pass to Tweedy in the left corner of the end zone and the sophomore wide receiver jumped high in the air and came down with the ball. The Frostburg side of the field went wild, but the celebration was short-lived because the official on the spot ruled that Tweedy caught the ball out of the end zone.
Frostburg receiver J.R. Bosley charged the official and was given an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
"Tweedy caught that ball and came down with both feet in the end zone," said Bosley. "There is no doubt about it. What a way to lose. It's very disappointing. We had that great comeback and then [to] get beat with a call like that."
Tweedy, who caught three passes for 87 yards, agreed. "I just didn't have one foot down, I got two feet down. The defensive back pushed me out of the end zone, and the official said I was out when I came down, but that's not true."
Said Jones: "All I saw was Warren make the catch, and then I got knocked down. I don't know if he was in or out, but it was a tough way to lose. Coach [Dennis Riccio] told us before the last series that the game was ours for the winning. That all we had to do was suck it up and we would win. We did that, and we still lost. It's very frustrating."
The official who made the call declined to comment on the play, saying only: "I made the call, and I stick by it."
Riccio said: "I'd rather not comment on the official's call until I look at the films. I'm going to reserve comment until that time. We didn't lose because of the officiating. Fumbles were a key part of the game. The defense played extremely well.
"On the last drive, the main option was to free Tweedy or Bosley for passes. Jones played a great football game. He's a tough kid. He stood in there and took the pressure."
Frostburg began the game with a case of fumbleitis. A fumble by Jones on the third play of the game was recovered for Ramapo, which is in Mahwah, N.J., by Elio Siragusa at the Frostburg 19, and six plays later, quarterback James Grant scored on a 1-yard sneak. John Moyer kicked the extra point, and Ramapo led, 7-0.
Jimmy Wilson's sack of Jones on a Frostburg fourth down midway through the second quarter at the Bobcats 41 led to the next touchdown. On the second play after the sack, Ramapo's Glinton Spann, who was named the Most Valuable Player in the game, went around the left end for 41 yards and a touchdown, and Moyer's kick made the score, 14-0.
Frostburg fumbled the ball six times, recovering only twice, and Jones was sacked three times.
The Bobcats marched 63 yards in nine plays with McTigue capping the drive with a 2-yard dive over tackle and cutting Ramapo's lead to 14-6. But Brad McKinney returned the ensuing kickoff 69 yards to the Frostburg 23, and two plays later Spann scored on a 16-yard run