So did Toby Peer.
The football coaches from North and South Hagerstown called the final scenario for the 56th edition of the Hubs-Rebels rivalry. It just wasn’t the way they envisioned it.
In fact, no one in School Stadium did.
“We said that the team that had the ball last was going to win the game,” Cunningham said. “We had it last ... but we didn’t think we’d be winning by taking a knee.”
But that’s exactly what happened.
North’s 14-12 victory on Friday could very easily be considered one of the classics in the series that began in 1957. It had all the subplots plugged in to make it one of those “I remember” games.
It lived up to it, but not for the reasons that were predicted.
The two teams, which had averaged better than a combined 81 points per game, managed just 26 between them — six in the second half — as defenses ruled the day.
If this were Hollywood instead of Hagerstown, someone would have been yelling “rewrite” on this script.
The story should have been about “I2K,” the celebration surrounding South’s Isiaha Smith becoming the first Washington County player to surpass 2,000 yards in a single season.
It was in the background as North’s defense and a sore back prevented the workhorse junior from bursting into glory. Smith finished with 28 yards — well below his season average — and needed a 6-yard run at the 5:42 mark of the fourth quarter — his last carry of the game — to reach 2,005 for his season.
Meanwhile on the other side, North’s “Three-Headed Monster” running attack lost its scariness on Halloween. Isaiah Keyes finished with 127 yards and Kyle Hewlett added 91, but neither got into the end zone.
“There weren’t a lot of big carries out there,” Keyes admitted. “But the little yards counted. The offensive line got out there and kept pushing and pushing. We were getting three yards at a time and pretty soon we were halfway down the field.”
Actually, it was the co-star on each team that made this game one of the most tense in recent memory.
It was a pair of defenses that both coaches credited as the reasons they both entered the game with 8-1 records and the reason both were in position to claim berths in next week’s Maryland Class 3A West playoffs.
North’s defense is best known for spectacular plays, resulting in turnovers and field position. The Hubs forced two critical South miscues and capitalized on a bad snap to move in for what proved to be the winning touchdown — albeit in the second quarter.
North’s two scoring drives — the first as result of a short South punt — were from 26 and 31 yards. Both were scored after Keyes and Hewlett did all the tough running to set up Nick Karlen’s touchdown pass of 18 yards to Gabe Friedgen and his 3-yard quarterback sneak.
And while South’s offense was put on pause, the Rebels’ defense made sure that North didn’t get away.
South forced North to turn the ball over on downs on five different occasions and forced a fumble on its own 15 with 1:56 remaining in the game to give the Rebels the chance to pull out the victory in dramatic fashion.
South used a crucial 52-yard reception by Noah Wright on a fourth-and-3 play and three North penalties in the final minute for a chance to kick a game-winning field goal.
The Rebels didn’t connect.
In two week’s time, South’s undefeated season fell to 8-2 and the Rebels fell out of playoff contention.
Meanwhile, North got the ball with 35.6 seconds remaining, had Karlen take a knee and danced off with all the trophies, the bragging rights and the school’s first playoff invitation since 2006.
“It was a shame that one of these teams had to lose tonight,” said Peer. “Both teams represented Washington County, their schools and their teams well.”
And they did it just the way their coaches predicted.
Well, sort of.