Frostburg edges Gulls for ACFC title

Late TD, 2-point run keeps playoff hopes alive, 23-22

November 14, 1999|By Mark Hoeflich | Mark Hoeflich,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The task was as evident as it was difficult for Frostburg State.

Win yesterday's game against cross-state rival Salisbury State and the Bobcats would not only clinch the Atlantic Central Football Conference championship but also face a better than even chance of making the Division III playoffs for the first time since 1994.

In a back-and-forth fourth quarter that saw four lead changes, Frostburg kept its hopes alive as quarterback Jason Henry threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Greg Cooper with 2: 43 left for a 23-22 win before 5,192 at PSINet Stadium.

"Henry and Cooper have been a four-year combination and they've had a great career together," said Frostburg coach Ed Sweeney. The Bobcats (8-2, 5-1) defeated the Sea Gulls for the 10th time in 11 games -- including four straight -- in a series that began in 1973. Frostburg also took home the inaugural Regents Cup series trophy.

"The kids wanted to win and now some things have to happen for us to get into the playoffs," said Sweeney, whose team hopes to get one of the nine at-large bids to the national tournament. "In our region we can justify why we should go, but because we're an independent we compete in a national pool."

For Salisbury (2-7, 2-4), it was a familiar feeling and an all-too-familiar finish. In a season full of unlucky breaks, Seth Haskins' fumble recovery for a touchdown gave the Sea Gulls a 22-15 lead with 3: 56 remaining. Then, with the game on the line, Salisbury had a breakdown in the secondary that Henry and Cooper turned into the winning touchdown, and an offsides penalty on the Sea Gulls gave Frostburg another chance at conversion points.

Going for the tie, Bobcats kicker Peter Angman missed the extra point after Cooper's touchdown reception, but Frostburg converted the two-point run for the win after Salisbury's penalty put the ball at the 1-yard line.

"I wanted our defense to win the game for us and I was surprised they [Frostburg] went down the field as easily as they did," Salisbury coach Sherman Wood said.

Frostburg came out with a bang, needing just two plays to move ahead, 6-0. Henry's 47-yard pass to Cooper on the first play from scrimmage put the Bobcats at the Salisbury 16 and Chris Perkins scored one play later.

But the Bobcats couldn't put away the Sea Gulls. Frostburg moved the the ball into Salisbury territory on five consecutive series, only to come way with three points and a 9-0 lead at halftime.

Salisbury pulled to within 9-8 on a safety late in the third period and the Sea Gulls had their first lead (14-9) when Reggie Boyce scored from 5 yards.

The Bobcats struck back with a 12-play drive that ended with Craig Hopkins' 4-yard run before Salisbury went back in front, 22-15, when Haskins returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown.

"Our defense kept us in the game, but we just couldn't get it done," Wood said.

The Bobcats did, however, in much the same they have all season. DeNelle Hale (158 yards rushing) started the Bobcats' winning drive with a 16-yard run to the Bobcats' 47 and Henry's quick throw to Cooper two plays later put Frostburg ahead to stay.

"At first we were going to run a quick screen to me right on the line, but when their cornerbacks came up we knew to go deep," said Cooper, who had four receptions for 123 yards. "We were looking for that play all day and we finally got it."

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