Eastern Tech did everything but beat No. 1 Hereford last night.
The visiting Mavericks largely contained Bulls running back Cory Smith. They hampered quarterback Andy DePaola into throwing his third interception. They executed two long scoring drives on the ground, which no Hereford rival had done.
In the end, however, it was "all of the heart that our team has" that enabled the Bulls to pull out a 28-14 Class 2A North Region title-game victory, said two-way lineman Joe Akers, whose 14th sack of the year helped to dethrone the No. 6 Mavericks (10-2) and end their six-game winning streak.
"Eastern Tech came out wanting it, plain and simple," said Akers, a fourth-year starter who is 47-3 in a Bulls uniform. "It took everything we had not to lose. We just were not going to allow ourselves to."
The victory earned Hereford (12-0) its eighth state semifinal berth, keeping alive its quest for a fourth state title. Although he was intercepted by Lamon Smith, DePaola also threw his 19th touchdown pass of the year, a 64-yarder to Matt Jones for an early 14-0 lead. Smith did score his 23rd touchdown, a 43-yard run with 4:57 to play for the game's final margin.
"They did everything we thought they would, but they always found a way to break something," said All-Metro Tom Farmer, who might have tied the game at 21 had his acrobatic attempt at Carlos Megginson's 35-yard pass in double coverage in the end zone not slipped through his grasp in the third period.
"It was right there. I just didn't get to it," Farmer said. "It was hard, getting so much pressure from a good team."
Last night's game was a rematch of the Bulls' earlier 37-0 victory, which earned 10th-year coach Steve Turnbaugh his 100th win. Hereford's playoff record is 17-5. It won the 1A state title in 1997, and 2A crowns in 2001 and 2002.
The Bulls likely will play host to Stephen Decatur, a 31-13 winner over 14th-ranked, defending state champion Aberdeen (9-3), unless Friendly defeats Potomac of Prince George's County today.
Hereford led 7-0 after Alex Butt's 9-yard run ended an eight-play, 75-yard drive with 8:45 left in the first quarter. It was 14-0 with 5:42 left in the first quarter after Jones' scoring pass from DePaola, who faced third-and-24. From there, however, a Eugene Thiesen-led defense wreaked havoc on the Bulls' passing game.
And the Mavericks were within 14-7 after Lamont Smith's 1-yard run, followed by Mitch Troyer's first of two extra-point kicks, ending a 16-play, 70-yard drive with 9:33 left in the first half.
The Bulls led 21-7 just 33 seconds before halftime after Ryan Asper's 8-yard run. But the Mavericks were within 21-14 after they opened the second half with a 12-play, 71-yard drive that ended with Megginson's 4-yard run.
"They came out this game fired up and they ran the ball on us pretty tough," said Cory Smith. "Coach made some adjustments, our line tightened up and we came out in the second half ready to play."