Hereford loses Akers, state championship, 19-12

Lineman injures neck

Potomac caps 14-0 season

Class 2A football

December 05, 2004|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

There was a hush over M&T Bank Stadium yesterday with 1:46 left in the third quarter of the Class 2A state football final, with top-ranked Hereford clinging to a five-point lead over Potomac of Prince George's County.

Hereford's mammoth two-way lineman, Joe Akers, who is 6 feet 3 and 320 pounds, was lying on his back and not moving. Akers was taken off on a stretcher to Shock Trauma with a neck injury, and it seemed like the Bulls' chances for a fourth state title left with him.

Hereford coach Steve Turnbaugh said precautionary tests were taken and it was determined Akers suffered a sprained neck and was released last night.

With Akers not on the field to anchor things in the trenches, Potomac ran the ball with success and Titan Trabue scored twice in the final period as the Wolverines eked out a 19-12 victory over the Bulls (13-1).

It was Potomac's first state title in three final appearances, including last year's 33-25 overtime loss to Aberdeen. The Wolverines became the first state public school team to go 14-0.

"When Joe Akers went down, that was time to take advantage of them and go right after them," said Potomac coach Eric Knight.

"Anytime you knock somebody's big man out of the game, put their top gun out, you can turn the whole game around on that one person. I felt sorry for him, but I decided then to run the ball a little more. He's a wide body and a pile to move out of a hole. With him gone, their defense was not as tough up the middle."

Potomac had only 49 yards rushing in the first half and 64 total yards, compared to 163 rushing and 194 total for the Bulls. The Wolverines added only 12 yards rushing in the third quarter before Akers' departure.

"Joe's big and physical and a leader on defense," said Bulls running back/linebacker Alex Butt. "When he went out, it changed the momentum."

The Wolverines rushed for 78 yards in the final quarter, including 9- and 2-yard touchdown runs by Trabue and 36- and 14-yard scrambles by quarterback James Nickens in Akers' absence. A Nickens-to-Corey Coles 42-yard pass play set up the winning score.

"Certainly losing a player the caliber of Joe hurts," said Turnbaugh, who said he's still undecided on whether to retire after going 108-14 over the past 10 seasons, with state titles in 1997, 2001 and 2002.

"I think it shows the talent this team has. We didn't play a good football game with five turnovers and we lost, 19-12. Potomac deserved to win, and who knows what could have happened if we had taken better care of the ball?"

Hereford's problems started on its first possession of the game after Potomac gave it up on downs. Down lineman Augustus Parrish scooped up a fumble by Butt and rumbled 39 yards to give his team a 7-0 lead in the first five minutes.

"I came off the back side and thought the play was dead, but saw the ball sitting there and didn't hear a whistle," said Parrish, who is 6-4, 305 pounds.

The Bulls answered in the second quarter with 1-yard touchdown runs by Butt and quarterback Andy DePaola to take a 12-7 halftime lead.

DePaola, who entered the game with only three interceptions, was picked off twice in the waning moments. He was intercepted at the Wolverines' 37 with 3:03 left and, after completing two passes, was picked off with 29 seconds left.

Potomac 7 0 0 12 -- 19

Hereford 0 12 0 0 -- 12

P--Parrish 39 fumble return (Scarlett kick) H--Butt 1 run (kick failed) H--DePaola 1 run (pass failed) P--Trabue 9 run (pass failed) P-- Trabue 2 run (kick failed)

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