Mt. Hebron surprises Long Reach

Winning 2 points come on audible with :40 left

Football

September 23, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

When it was over, Mount Hebron coach Larry Luthe quietly bent down, picked up a piece of the turf and stuffed it deep into his pocket.

You could say everything about this win was a keeper.

Mount Hebron, a perennial bottom-feeder in Howard County's recent football history, took a big step toward the top yesterday, as the Vikings knocked off Long Reach, 23-22, on the Lightning's homecoming.

Mount Hebron never dominated, except when it mattered most. Down 22-15 with 40 seconds left, Vikings wide receiver John Zabel out-jumped two Lightning defensive backs to pull in an 18-yard touchdown. Clearly stunned, Long Reach lined up for the extra point expecting Mount Hebron to kick, which would have tied the score. But on a gutsy audible, Viking center Greg Mech snapped the ball out wide to the left, directly to running back Steve Bloom, who walked into the end zone for what proved to be the winning two-point conversion.

"I didn't even know we were going for two," Luthe said. "I was thinking about overtime. But every extra point, we tell our kids to set up like that, with blockers and a guy out wide. We tell them, if they don't cover it, take it. That's just a sign that they're listening to what we're saying in practice."

The wild finish gave Luthe his biggest win as the Vikings coach, and moved Mount Hebron to an impressive 3-0 record. Long Reach, despite a defensive touchdown by lineman Terrell Blackwell and 257 yards of total offense, dropped to 2-1.

"This win means a whole lot more to our kids than it does to me," Luthe said. "They easily could have given up, but they didn't. In big games, big players make big plays. That's what happened today."

Luthe, without question, was referring to Zabel, who caught nine passes for 158 yards on the day. Every time the Vikings needed a push, the lanky Zabel delivered. He scored the first touchdown of the game on a 59-yard pass from Maurice Workman in the first quarter, caught a 4-yard touchdown in the second, then made a leaping vertical grab to convert the two-point conversion. And on Mount Hebron's final drive, he pulled in three passes for 65 yards and scored his third touchdown of the game.

"I think he's simply the best receiver in the county," Luthe said.

Said Zabel: "Whenever the ball goes up, I'm expecting to catch it. We just want it more this year. We were sick of losing last year. Hopefully this will show people we're for real."

For Long Reach, the frustration was immense. The Lightning controlled most of the game, but wrecked its chances with seven penalties and several other costly mental errors. Late in the fourth quarter, leading 22-15, Lightning safety Andre George intercepted a pass and returned it for a 63-yard touchdown, only to have it called back on a clipping penalty.

"No team has really stopped us this year; we've simply been our worst enemy," said Lightning coach Pete Hughes. "Mount Hebron has a nice team, but it never should have come down to the end like that."

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