Lightning grounds Maryland's comeback

Weather stops Super 44 with N. Virginia ahead 21-16

July 25, 1999|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

FAIRFAX, Va. -- There might have been a great ending to the Super 44 Senior All-Star Game last night at W.T. Woodson High School.

Unfortunately, when the Northern Virginia All-Stars escaped with a 21-16 victory -- their first in the classic since 1996 -- the finish was signaled not by a whistle or a buzzer, but by a National Weather Service report that heavy lightning was on the way.

With nearly six minutes remaining and the Maryland All-Stars making a comeback bid, the game was called, and the estimated 5,000 fans went home early.

"They're very disappointed in both locker rooms," said Maryland coach Steve Harward of C. M. Wright. "We fought hard to get back in the game. God took things out of our hands."

The Marylanders, down 21-7 at one point in the third quarter, had new life after a snap to Virginia punter Joey Hildbold went out of the end zone for a safety with 6: 49 left in the game, making it 21-16.

Maryland had a first down on its own 37-yard-line when the officials saw lightning with 5: 43 left.

"We had some momentum going there. It would have been a big five minutes for both of us," Harward said.

Under Virginia high school rules, officials must delay the game by 30 minutes each time they see lightning. When lightning struck again -- starting the 30-minute period a second time -- followed by a NWS report of storms to hit the area in a half-hour or sooner, officials ended the game.

"I could have overridden [a recommendation from officials to end the game], but I wanted to make the right decision, and based on the input, I said, `Let's call it,' " said game director Joe Geoghan.

Thus, the potential for yet another big play in a game that featured many went by the wayside.

The Virginia team started the scoring with a plodding, 64-yard drive to the end zone -- punctuated by Kenzie Stancil's 3-yard run with 5: 33 left in the first quarter.

But Maryland immediately responded, scoring on a 69-yard flea-flicker from Sherwood's Scoots Crowell (Western Maryland) to Largo's Ikey Chuku to Seneca Valley's Fred Del Villar.

Virginia answered with two big plays of its own. Episcopal's Bryan Skinner (Virginia) found high school teammate Carl Morris for a 29-yard touchdown with 10: 47 left in the second, and Morris returning the favor to Skinner on a reverse pass for 73 yards with 11: 00 left in the third quarter.

Chuku cut Maryland's deficit with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 21-14 with 9: 21 left in the fourth.

"We told the players that people made it seem that we didn't have a chance because we are just Northern Virginia vs. all of Maryland," Virginia coach Joe Muskett said. "The kids responded to that and got fired up to the challenge, and I think they did a great job tonight.

"The first thing I said to one of our assistants was, `We'll never know.' That's why Steve's upset, I'm upset, Maryland's upset, and Virginia's upset."

The game's end was a letdown for Geoghan. Last night was the initial foray into football events for the founder of the McDonald's All-America basketball game and the Capital Classic.

"I didn't want to it to end that way in my first game," Geoghan said. "We were set for a fantastic five minutes."

Pub Date: 7/25/99

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