Gambles Backfire On Annapolis Coach, Ruin Postseason

SIDELINES

Unconventional Calls Spoil Homecoming Game

October 28, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

We turned our clocks back this weekend to Eastern Standard Time, andmost of us got an extra hour of sleep Saturday night -- except, thatis, Annapolis football coach Roy Brown.

For Brown, turning the clock back meant an extra hour to be up. He likely hasn't slept much atall since Friday night, when his Panthers (5-3) blew a 22-14 decision in overtime to the Old Mill Patriots (7-1).

A couple of questionable coaching moves by Brown and his offensive coordinator, Bill Phebus, late in the game brought out a horde of second-guessers as homecoming at Annapolis went up in flames. There are two decisions that Brown might like to have back, but had they worked, Annapolis still would be in the 4A Region IV playoff hunt and thecoach would be a genius.

As it stands now, with two regular season games left and three losses, Annapolis can just about forget postseason, as can archrival Severna Park (5-3) -- barring a series of upsets -- while Old Mill appears headed back to the playoffs and North County (6-2) is two wins away. The latter Knights play their final two at home (Glen Burnie and Broadneck, both 4-4).

It's conceivable Annapolis or Severna Park could slip in as the eighth seed at 7-3, in what is an eight-team state tournament. Providing they both win this week -- Annapolis at Chesapeake (1-7) and Severna Park at Arundel (4-4) -- the Panthers and Falcons play their final game in Annapolis on Friday, Nov. 8.

Barring a major upset of Old Mill in one of its last two games -- Queen Anne's (0-8) at home and at Glen Burnie (4-4) --for the first time in recent memory, the Annapolis-Severna Park 32ndannual regular season classic won't settle the county championship.

A tie is possible for one of them if Old Mill gets upset, but the Annapolis-Severna Park loser can forget everything -- county and playoffs.

Brown knows his young Panthers could be right in there at 6-2, had they held on to upend defending Region IV champion Old Mill onFriday night, but instead his squad is 5-3 and hoping.

Annapolis totally dominated Old Mill yet lost in overtime. The Panthers held the Pats to a mere six yards in the second half and a total offense (75rushing and 23 passing) of 98 yards for the game.

On the other side of the football, the host Panthers had 224 yards rushing -- 152 byTy Selby -- and 11 passing for a total offense of 235 yards. So, howdid they lose?

On a couple gambles, that's how.

On a third-down situation in the middle of the field late in the final period, holding a 14-6 lead with just under six minutes to go, the Panthers elected to put the ball up. Sophomore Juan Johnson's pass was picked off by Eric Sheppard, who stunned the huge Annapolis crowd with a dazzling75-yard interception return for six points.

Harold Peters crashedinto the end zone for the two-point conversion, and suddenly it was 14-14 with 5:23 to go.

After an exchange of possessions, the Panthers roared down the field with the clock winding down and Selby getting most of the yardage. Selby bullied his way to a first and goal at the Old Mill 9, and Kevin Belt carried it down to the 2 on the next play, as the Panthers used their final timeout.

With 30 seconds showing on the clock, the Annapolis crowd was rocking and doing the tomahawk chop. Had anyone polled the audience on what the next play wouldbe, the most popular answer would have been, "Trap play to Selby, and if we don't get in, set-up and throw the ball away to stop the clock and then go for the field goal."

That trap to Selby had been working all night and is what had the Panthers knocking on the door.

Brown and Phebus conferred, and Annapolis shocked everyone, includingOld Mill coach Pete Regala, by going for the field goal with 30 seconds to go. When the Annapolis field goal unit went onto the field following the Panther timeout, Regala and his defensive coordinator MikeMarcus frantically signaled for a timeout of their own.

Junior Clint Wilson's field goal attempt from 20 yards out was well off to theright and Old Mill had dodged a point-blank bullet.

The Pats scored on third down in OT with Peters going in from the 1.

Holder TimNewby raced into the right corner, untouched, on a fake conversion kick for two more points.

Sheppard picked off another Johnson pass (fourth of the night) on second down of the Annapolis OT possession to end it.

While it's easy to second-guess Brown, it must be said his reason for going for the field goal was valid. The Panther coach felt that Wilson, who already had boomed a pair of extra-point attempts from the same 20-yard distance and who had been very consistent allseason, would routinely kick it through.

Wilson had made four of six extra-point kick attempts the week before in a 40-6 rout of QueenAnne's. The coach was confident he would hit it Friday night and didn't want to take a chance on a fumble or the clock running out beforethey got a chance for the automatic kick.

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