Mt. Hebron has time on its side: Field goal tops River Hill, 23-20

Exchange student hits it after refs' 11-minute delay deciding if clock ran out

Football

High Schools

November 02, 2003|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Mount Hebron coach Larry Luthe planted a kiss on the side of Toni Sacke's face as a grinning Luthe walked off the River Hill football field yesterday.

"Oh, you probably don't do that in Germany, do you," Luthe said about the kiss.

In Germany, soccer players don't win crucial football games with field goals in the final 6.5 seconds, either.

Sacke, a junior German exchange student who never played football before this season -- and never kicked a field goal before -- connected on a line-drive 30-yarder that barely cleared the crossbar to defeat River Hill, 23-20.

The kick kept the fifth-ranked Hawks (7-2 overall, 6-2 league) from clinching the first playoff spot in the school's eight-year history and ended their county championship hopes. The Hawks can still make the playoffs but next week must defeat Glenelg, which is on a 35-game regular-season unbeaten streak.

Sacke's kicked capped a 53-yard drive to the River Hill 12-yard line that began with 1 minute, 26 seconds left in the game, and completed one of the most bizarre finishes in Howard County football history.

It also gave the unranked Vikings (6-3, 6-2) a chance of making the playoffs if they defeat No. 6 Wilde Lake next week.

"I'm feeling so good I can't describe it," Sacke said in a strong German accent. "It was so great."

Forced to wait 11 minutes before attempting the kick while officials decided whether or not the clock should have run out on the previous play, Sacke said he kept his eyes focused on the crossbar the entire time.

"I wasn't thinking about anything except that I just wanted to kick it over that bar," said Sacke, who began this season trying out for the soccer team, the sport he played in Germany.

After Mount Hebron was penalized with nine seconds showing on the scoreboard clock -- following a 7-yard run by Brian Dribben to the River Hill 6 -- officials decided they had failed to stop the clock soon enough, so five seconds were added, leaving 14 seconds to play.

Once the holding penalty was marked off back to the 21, the clock should have resumed running, said River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen. Instead, the Vikings huddled and started their play before the clock restarted, which Van Deusen estimated took at least seven seconds.

Quarterback Kyle Barnett then ran for 9 yards and 6.5 seconds were showing on the official scoreboard clock as the Vikings called a timeout to prepare for the field goal.

"The game should have ended on that last running play, and we should have gone to overtime," said Van Deusen. "The referee said he thought the previous play had been an incomplete pass instead of a run, and so he didn't signal for the clock to begin running again as he should have.

"The officials admitted they made a mistake, but said they weren't sure how much time to take off the clock, so they let him take the kick."

Sophomore Chris Eccleston played his best game of the season for Mount Hebron, rushing 14 times for 161 yards that included one 57-yard touchdown. He also caught a spectacular 28-yard touchdown pass barely over the outstretched hands of leaping defender Tim Morgan.

Barnett was 9-for-12 for 124 yards and one touchdown. His River Hill counterpart, Ben Hostetler, was 15-for-27 for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

River Hill rallied from a 20-7 deficit in the fourth quarter on a 13-play, 71-yard touchdown drive that featured a fake punt and 35-yard pass to Thomas Perkins from Dan Konapelsky. The Hawks also had a five-play, 50-yard touchdown drive that ended with Rogers Barnes' 10-yard pass catch in the left corner of the end zone.

"We'll take it [victory] any way we can get it," said Luthe. "We made the plays at the end in our two-minute drill and showed we can play with the top-tier county teams."

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