3 big plays let Eagles soar, 21-0, over Bel Air Aberdeen takes over 1st in battle of unbeatens

October 11, 1997|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The similarities between No. 10-ranked Aberdeen and No. 15 Bel Air were obvious, heading into last night's matchup between Harford County's unbeatens. The Bobcats, coached by Bruce Riley, came to Aberdeen to face Kevin Reilly's Eagles, who had an identical 5-0 record.

The difference in the game was glaring.

Three big plays, each of which resulted in a touchdown, and a defensive effort that limited Bel Air to 187 yards of total offense, helped lift Aberdeen to a 21-0 victory and sole possession of first place in the county standings.

"We didn't have any expectations of how we were going to get it done. We just wanted to try [to] get it done," said Eagles coach Reilly. "We used a lot of kids on defense and really thought they did a nice job."

Aberdeen's swarming defense held Bel Air's backfield to 159 yards on 34 carries, and the secondary caught nearly as many passes as Bel Air's receiving corps. Bel Air quarterback Adam Rafalski completed just four of 22 passes for 28 yards and was picked off three times, the final one resulting in a 49-yard interception return for Stephon Watson.

That was one of the three "big plays."

After a turnover-filled, scoreless first quarter, Aberdeen broke out of its slump and scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first half.

E. J. Henderson (17 carries, 128 yards) put the Eagles on the board as he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, dodged three defenders in the secondary and scampered 58 yards for a touchdown.

Chuck Faison's interception in Bel Air territory set up Aberdeen's second score.

On the Eagles' first play of the drive, Aberdeen quarterback Jermaine Skinner found Watson streaking down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown pass.

Billy Wright's second point-after kick gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 2: 22 left in the half.

"We thrive on big plays. We're a big-play team," said Skinner. "We knew that we couldn't come in over-confident. We knew we just had to go out and play ball, and we'd be fine."

Aberdeen (6-0, 3-0) got what looked like an early break when Jeff Roberts smothered a fumble on a punt but the Eagles drive stalled when junior linebacker Tony Cavallio jumped on a Henderson fumble at the 15.

Bel Air (5-1, 4-1) appeared to have scored first late in the first quarter, but Phil Hunter's apparent 95-yard punt return was negated when officials ruled he had stepped out of bounds near midfield. Two plays later, Watson killed the Bobcats' drive by picking off Rafalski's pass.

"Aberdeen did a nice job defensively. We had a couple of good drives, and I'm proud of that. But we just couldn't put together enough good, positive plays to punch it in the end zone," said Riley. "Aberdeen is a top-caliber ball club, and you know you're going to go up against a lot of good athletes. You know if you beat them, you beat a good football team. Unfortunately for us, they made the big plays."

Pub Date: 10/11/97

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