GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- A side from the South was due for a victory here.
Western Maryland had lost 13 straight times at Gettysburg College, the campus of which sits on what was the site of a pivotal Civil War battle in 1863. The Green Terrors won here for the first time in 40 years yesterday, dodging the Bullets' fourth-quarter rally and holding on for a 12-7 victory.
The Green Terrors previously won in Gettysburg in 1951, and they previously beat the Bullets in 1979, by a 26-13 score in Westminster.
"This is the biggest win of my coaching career, bigger than Dickinson last year," Western Maryland coach Dale Sprague said, referring to a 1990 victory that marked the Green Terrors' arrival as a Centennial Football Conference contender. "We have a bitter rivalry with Gettysburg, but we also have a great deal of respect for them. This will erase a lot of frustration for our kids, our program and our school."
Western Maryland's first football game, in 1891, was against Gettysburg, and the Bullets set the tone for the series with a 98-0 victory. Gettysburg's lead in the series grew to 38-5-1 with a 28-25 victory last year, when the Green Terrors fumbled on a first-and-goal, go-ahead opportunity in the fourth quarter.
There was a distinct air of deja vu yesterday. The Bullets got their only touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Tod Creneti to Mike Jackson with 5 minutes, 26 seconds left, and the same combination nearly got the winning points with 1:10 remaining. Jackson was again open in the end zone, but couldn't hold Creneti's pass.
Western Maryland (1-1, 1-0) jumped on top with two first-quarter touchdowns, then relied on a sophomore-dominated defense to win its CFC opener. Gettysburg dropped to 0-2, 0-1 in the CFC.
Senior tailback Eric Frees, who gained 198 yards on 27 carries to increase his career rushing total to 3,985 yards -- 14th best in NCAA Division III history -- took a late pitch from sophomore quarterback Paul McCord and went 4 yards for the touchdown to top off the first possession of the game.
With 2:46 left in the first quarter, McCord completed another impressive drive, finding senior wide receiver Andy Steckel in the left corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown pass and a 12-0 lead.
The first drive covered 47 yards in five plays, the second 67 in nine; the Western Maryland offense was otherwise frustrated. The score could easily have been 28-0 at the half. A wide-open Steckel dropped a pass at the Bullets' 5 on the series between the two touchdown drives. And, midway through the second quarter, Frees had a 75-yard run end at the 5 when he was caught from behind by Gettysburg linebacker Don DeLisi.
Starting one freshman and six sophomores, the Green Terrors' defense nearly posted its first shutout of Gettysburg in 15 years. Senior linebacker Jim Webster had 12 tackles and two interceptions.
Western Maryland finally broke after McCord's fifth punt of the second half. Gettysburg drove 68 yards on 10 plays, as Creneti finally found an able receiver in Jackson. The Green Terrors were guilty of two infractions on the ensuing kickoff and couldn't do anything with a first-and-18 from their 8.
A roughing penalty on the punt gave Gettysburg the ball at the Green Terrors' 40 with 3:45 left. Eight plays later, the drive ended with Creneti's fourth-down pass from the 19 sailing just past Jackson, who didn't play until the fourth quarter.