Frees' 2 TDs rally W. Maryland past Hopkins, 24-21

November 17, 1991|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,The Evening Sun

WESTMINSTER -- Recalling the last time Eric Frees carried a football for Western Maryland will be easy.

The Green Terrors began playing Johns Hopkins in the 19th century, and one of the shining moments in the rivalry came yesterday at Bair Stadium, when Frees' 18-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left climaxed a 24-21 victory over the Blue Jays. It was his second fourth-quarter touchdown, as the Green Terrors came back from a 21-10 deficit.

Western Maryland (5-5) had last beaten Hopkins (5-4-1) in 1982, breaking an eight-game Blue Jays winning streak that was the longest in the history of the series. The Green Terrors finished 4-3 and Hopkins 3-4 in the Centennial Conference.

Green Terrors coach Dale Sprague was determined to showcase Frees, and the leading all-purpose rusher (6,871 yards) in the history of NCAA Division III reponded in typical fashion. He had a career-high 48 carries for 205 yards, giving him 1,545 for 1991 and 5,281 in four seasons, the second-best total in Division III behind the 5,570 gained by Plymouth State's Joe Dudek (1982-85).

Frees carried 17 times in the first quarter and made holes where there were none.

Western Maryland controlled the ball for more than 39 minutes, and its defense limited Hopkins' high-powered attack to 114 yards in the second half. But the Blue Jays' big-play ability gave them a 21-10 lead with 13 seconds left in the third quarter. Eric Williams' 53-yard return of an interception for a touchdown gave Hopkins that spread, but Frees and company seized the moment.

"You just knew Eric [Frees] was going to take over," said Andy Steckel, the Green Terrors' all-time leading receiver. "Everyone in the stadium, including Hopkins, knew he was going to get the ball. It's nice to have a player like that on your side."

Western Maryland rebounded from Williams' interception with an eight-play, 55-yard scoring drive in which Frees carried seven times. He went the final 12 yards with 12:07 remaining, breaking four tackles to cut the difference to 21-16.

Frees touched the ball only once on Western Maryland's next fruitless possession, but he was the central figure again when a short punt set up the Green Terrors at the Blue Jays' 42-yard line with 5:01 remaining.

His fourth carry on the six-play drive came on a fourth-and-three from the 18. For about the 50th time since 1988, Sprague called G-1 Power Solid Over Left, a pitch to Frees out of a wishbone formation. With Hopkins knowing he would get the ball and his linemen sustaining their blocks, Frees made a superb cut on the 13, then eluded several tacklers and took two more into the end zone with him with 2:25 left. Todd Leskoski's conversion pass to James Martin made it 24-21.

The Western Maryland defense -- which got big games from senior Jim Webster and freshman Adam Gregori -- held one more time, and the Green Terrors were able to run out the last 72 seconds. Forty-five minutes later, Frees and Steckel were still on the field, making the moment last.

"It couldn't have ended any better than that," Frees said.

Adding to the storybook character of the game was Leskoski, a (( senior whose quarterbacking experience during the past two seasons consisted of two attempts and a 10-yard completion. Coming on for the injured Paul McCord on the Green Terrors' second possession, Leskoski completed seven of 16 for 114 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown to Steckel with 14:15 left in the second quarter.

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