The atmosphere was electric.
After jogging onto the field, the Hereford football players threw their hands up and were showered by cheers from their fans. The bright lights were shining off their maroon helmets, and the cheerleaders were bundled up, shouting out support for the Bulls.
It was Hereford's Class 3A state title game against Damascus of Montgomery County at M&T Bank Stadium. The Bulls played hard for 48 minutes but just didn't have enough to overcome the powerful Hornets, falling, 40-20.
"We fell a little short," coach Steve Turnbaugh said. "They've overachieved all year. We've had to overcome a lot of adversity, and they never backed down from a challenge. They didn't back down today."
The No. 5 Bulls (13-1) fought from behind all game but couldn't do enough to keep the Hornets out of the end zone. Damascus (13-1) didn't punt in the first half, and quarterback Kyle Frazier, receiver Lee Hertel and running back Evan Zedler had productive games.
"The quarterback did tonight what he's done to 12 other teams. He makes great passes," Turnbaugh said. "They're athletes and made the plays they had to make in critical situations. "
Damascus asserted dominance early, stringing together a methodical 13-play, 79-yard opening drive, capped by Frazier's 10-yard run to take a quick 6-0 lead.
Hereford, though, immediately struck back. The Bulls put together a 14-play, 76 yard-drive on their next possession, with running back Lonnie Liggins sprinting to the right side, finding daylight and cutting into the end zone for a 7-yard score. Adam Yates' kick gave Hereford a 7-6 lead.
"Our offense just says, `We never quit, never quit,' " Liggins said. "We just tried to do our job, played our hearts out and played our best."
That would be the Bulls' only lead, though. Frazier (10-for-13, 211 yards, four total touchdowns) found Hertel (six catches, 166 yards, one touchdown) 44 yards downfield on the Hornets' next drive, and Zedler bullied his way 4 yards to give Damascus the lead. Zedler was effective all game, rushing for 203 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries.
Hereford fumbled on its next possession, and Frazier scored on a 2-yard sneak. Damascus struck again right before halftime, when Zedler went 4-for-5 for 80 yards and found Hertel in the back of the end zone to give the Hornets a 27-7 lead going into half.
"My biggest thing is in the huddle, I always say, `You got to have faith, you got to have faith,' " Hereford quarterback Tyler Brown said. "I looked at every single one of my linemen and said, `You guys do your job and we'll get in the end zone.' "
Brown wasn't lying. The Bulls put together a six-play, 70-yard drive in the third quarter, highlighted by a 50-yard run by Brown, and pulled within two touchdowns. The Hornets bounced back with two more scores, though, putting away the game.
Liggins had 17 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns in his final high school game. He ran hard and didn't fold, as evidenced by him getting the game's final touchdown with 30 seconds left.
"Senior year, just to lead us to the state championship, that's the best feeling ever," Liggins said. "I hope that the juniors saw what we did this year and make it again."
Damascus 6 21 6 7 - 40
Hereford 0 7 6 7 - 20
D-Frazier 10 run (kick failed) H-Liggins 7 run (Yates kick) D-Zedler 4 run (Francis run) D-Frazier 2 run (Magas kick) D-Hertel 19 pass from Frazier (kick failed) H-DePaola 1 run (kick failed) D-Frazier 5 run (Magas kick) H-Frazier 1 run (Yates kick)