HAMPDEN – His first carry of the game was for no gain. His last put Hampden Academy’s football team into the semifinals for the first time in eight years.
Kyle Ross stands just 5 feet, 7 inches tall, but the 200-pound senior fullback was a tall order for Belfast’s defense to handle as he scored the winning touchdown in Hampden’s 30-24 overtime victory in Friday night’s Pine Tree Conference Class B quarterfinal.
The No. 4 Broncos take a 6-3 record to Gardiner to take on the No. 1 Tigers next week, while No. 5 Belfast finished 4-5.
Ross gained the last 10 of his 181 yards on his 43rd carry, the first offensive play for the Broncos in OT, and capped a whirlwind final six minutes featuring more twists than a Chubby Checker radiothon.
With 4:15 to play in the fourth quarter, Hampden had a first-and-goal from Belfast’s 2-yard line. A bad snap sailed behind quarterback Shawn Smith and Belfast’s Jon Walsh recovered it on the B-17.
The Lions then marched down the field, covering 75 yards in 10 plays and capping that with an apparent game-winning TD run by Travis Lee with 9.7 seconds left.
The TD was wiped out, however, by a late penalty flag for an illegal block below the waist, pushing the Lions back to the H-22. Ross then intercepted a pass by Lions quarterback Jake Arthers to apparently send the game into overtime. This time, it was the Broncos’ turn to have a big play nullified by penalty (roughing the passer) and Belfast had one more shot from the H-12 with no time left.
Lee came out for a 29-yard field goal attempt, but the low kick was partially blocked by a sprawling Tyler Furrough and went wide left.
Belfast won the coin toss and went on offense to start OT, but Furrough tackled Lee for a 2-yard loss and Arthers’ pass to Walsh in the end zone bounced off Walsh’s hands. Lee gained 7 yards off left tackle to set up fourth-and-goal from the H-5. Lee looked like he was bound for the goal line, but slipped on the artificial turf and fell down for a 2-yard gain, turning the ball over to the Broncos.
Ross took the handoff from Smith, burst ahead off right tackle, and plowed into the end zone with two would-be tacklers trying to bring him down to send the Broncos sideline into a wild celebration.
The Broncs ran for 283 yards on 54 carries, many of them up the middle on fullback traps.
“We even went to a defense that can usually take care of that, but they kept pounding the ball and you have to give them credit,” said Belfast co-coach Butch Arthers. “Their running backs were just relentless and they got yard after yard after contact.”
Other than the opening run for no gain, Ross had just one other run for no positive yards (a 2-yard loss). He gained at least two on every other carry.
“A lot of it was just Ross and the way he was running, and our offensive line has been averaging 300 and 400 yards a game the last five games,” said HA coach Harry McCluskey.
That line is manned by center Mike Butler, left tackle Luke Rancourt, left guard Matt York, right tackle Furrough, and right guard Josh Ranger.
“Our line has just been pummeling everybody lately,” said Smith. “We run those plays over and over and they just can’t stop it.”
The Broncos won despite losing tailback Bob Seger early in the second quarter with what might be a broken foot.
“I think he’s having surgery tonight and we think he could be done,” McCluskey said.
The Lions scored first, after Tyler Bowen recovered a Broncos fumble, by marching 56 yards in nine plays. Hampden answered 3 minutes and 44 seconds later when Smith capped an 11-play, 63-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run.
Ross made it 16-8 Broncos with an 11-yard TD run and two-point conversion rush with 5:39 left in the half, but Belfast tied it on Lee’s 66-yard TD run and Ricky Bernosky’s two-point rush. Lee (19 carries, 190 yards) made it 24-16 with 6:49 left in the third quarter on a 10-yard run and conversion rush. Hampden tied it on Ross’ 22-yard TD run and conversion pass from Smith to Justin Kelsey 2:40 later.
BRONCOS 30, LIONS 24 (OT)
Belfast 8 8 8 0 0 – 24
Hampden 8 8 8 0 6 – 30
B-Bernosky 20 run (Lee pass from Arthers)
H-Smith 1 run (Seger rush)
H-Ross 11 run (Ross rush)
B-Lee 66 run (Bernosky rush)
B-Lee 10 run (Lee rush)
H-Ross 22 run (Kelsey pass from Smith)
H-Ross 10 run
First downs 17 22
Rushing att.-yards 43-310 54-283
Passing comp.-att. 1-6 1-5
Passing yards 10 18
Total yards 320 301
Punts-avg. 1-33.0 0-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Intercepted by 0 1
Penalties-yards 5-35 8-42
Belfast: Lee 19-190, Arthers 12-66, Bernosky 7-51, Walsh 5-3; Hampden: Ross 28-181, Seger 7-49, Smith 14-45, Turner 4-6, Sarnecki 1-2
Belfast: Arthers 1-6-1-10; Hampden: Smith 1-5-0-18
Belfast: Walsh 1-10; Hampden: Chiavacci 1-18