HAGERSTOWN —To Toby Peer, there is only one form of justice in football, especially when it comes to the 56th edition of the North Hagerstown-South Hagerstown rivalry game.
In football’s version of legalese, the difference in Friday night’s city championship at School Stadium will come down to following a variation of one of law’s most important principles: Possession is nine-tenths of the (game).
To Peer, South’s third-year coach, the key to this game is a simple one — whichever team has the ball longest and last has a good chance of claiming victory. And in this game, the victor will receive many spoils.
“Whoever has the ball can score at any time,” Peer said Wednesday during the Gridiron Classic luncheon in North Hagerstown’s library. “Either team can score from any part of the field. This could be like one of those college games where whichever team has the ball last could be the one who wins the game.”
That part isn’t hard to figure. South is averaging 38.6 points per game and has not scored less than 21 in any game this season. On the flip side, North averages 42.4 points per game and has scored at least 35 points in its last six games.
The astonishing thing may be the method both the Rebels and Hubs have used to assert their offensive will. In this era of wide-open passing games, both teams have reached 8-1 records by running the ball.
But even that method carries different interpretations.
The Rebels have hitched their wagon to Isiaha Smith, a junior who is 23 yards short of becoming the first player in Washington County to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and has scored 27 touchdowns. South also has quarterback Brandon Jackson, who has accounted for nearly 600 yards.
Meanwhile, North has terrorized opponents with its “Three-Headed Monster” attack, featuring Isaiah Keyes, Kyle Hewlett and Preston Carey, who have combined for more than 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. The Hubs also feature Tre Anderson, who adds a dimension out of a slot position.
So there is the contrast in the possession battle.
It’s the Rebels’ workhorse approach against the Hubs’ “life in the fast lane” attack.
“You know who we give the ball and he’s going to get it a whole lot (Friday night),” Peer said, with a smile. “I would love for us to have a game plan of having 17-play, 85-yard drives for touchdowns. (North) has explosive speed. They remind me of schools I have coached against in Florida. Their team speed is phenomenal and is amazing.”
While Smith has been the featured piece of the South puzzle, he readily admits that he wouldn’t be where he is without the rest of the Rebels. It has become more evident in the later stages of the season as teams go out trying to take Smith out of the game, but the Rebels find ways to establish him.
“I know I’m the one who runs the ball a lot, but the others help because we work as a team,” Smith said. “We just have to do more stuff to open things up. It’s not about me … it’s all about the team.”
He has been held under 200 yards just three times this season, including last week in the Rebels’ 42-32 loss to Brunswick. In many games, Smith has earned a large percentage of his yardage in the fourth quarter, when opponents are tired and the Rebels are salting away the game.
But South needs to corral North’s speed so it can use Smith in the later stages of the game.
The game has added importance for the Rebels, who lost their playoff security blanket in last week’s loss to Brunswick.
The Rebels fell from third to fifth in the Maryland Class 3A West standings, out of the fourth and final playoff berth by a fraction of a point. South also lost a nine-game winning streak and the chance for its first undefeated season in 50 years while falling out of the Maryland Media Top 25 poll.
A win Friday night would not only close the gap in the city series to 29-26-1 and give the Rebels a second straight win over the Hubs after eight straight losses, but it would guarantee them their second trip to the playoffs in school history.