CUMBERLAND — Sixty seconds seemed like an eternity Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
As it turned out, it was, as fourth-seeded Brunswick, a minute from defeat, needed only 17 seconds to score the go-ahead touchdown, then recovered a fumble a few seconds later to defeat second-seeded Fort Hill, 46-42, for the Class 1A West Region championship.
Brunswick (8-4), which beat top-seeded Boonsboro 39-16 a week ago, advances to the state semifinals and a likely meeting with Dunbar next weekend.
Fort Hill, with a Herculean effort from Dekarai Darr, who ran 39 times for 263 yards, had a seven-game winning streak snapped and finished 9-3.
The Sentinels appeared to have gotten the final punch in a blow-by-blow battle when Zac Elbin hit Travis Bush with a perfect halfback option pass for a 26-yard touchdown with a minute to play, giving Fort Hill a 42-40 lead with 1:00 to play.
But it only lasted 17.3 seconds.
Collin Nusbaum, after hitting Doug Pearl for 26 yards to get to the Fort Hill 33, threw a short pass across the middle to Blaine Price who took care of the rest on a 33-yard touchdown.
Three plays later, the Sentinels lost a fumble near midfield on an attempted hook-and-ladder pass play with 16 seconds left.
“It’s a tough loss, but I am not disappointed in the kids, especially these seniors, who fought tooth and nail from the beginning of the year and never gave up.
“It was a great effort. Tremendous. I’m very pleased. I’m not somber. I’m pleased that I got to coach these kids the entire year.”
Fort Hill led 14-8 after one quarter but trailed 27-21 at the half and 34-21 with 6:56 left in the third. The Sentinels regained the lead twice in the final six minutes: 35-34 after a Darr three-yard run with 5:40 left; and 42-40 after Elbin’s halfback option pass to Bush with a minute to go.
But each time, Brunswick had a quick answer.
“You’re expecting (top-seeded) Boonsboro and you get Brunswick, and they come with that attack on a turf field on a nice night. We were praying for rain,’’ Appel said. “Blaine Price made a tremendous catch to put them ahead. We played great defense there. He just made a great play and the quarterback made a great play. There’s really nothing you can do about that. Our kids played hard.”
Price, who caught a state record 118 passes this year, had 12 catches for 236 yards, including gains of 57, 40, 33 and 29 yards. Nusbaum was 21 of 32 for 315 yards.
“We’ve practiced, since August, the uptempo, no-huddle, hurry-down-the-field offense and we’re in a two-minute offense every play of the game, so to get in that situation is not a surprise for us. It’s not a panic situation,” Brunswick coach Patt Foster said of the two-play, 59-yard game-winning drive. “We run 50 to 60 plays in a 15-minute team period every day so the pace is what we expect.
“It’s a matter of making plays and executing at that point and we just happened to do it tonight. It doesn’t always work that way. But everything hit on all cylinders when it had to.”
Darr at one point ran the ball for 12 consecutive plays in leading the Sentinels back from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half. He scored twice, with one being a 74-yarder in the second quarter.
Travis Bush had six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown, and Hunter Squires was 7 of 9 for 78 yards and scored twice on quarterback sneaks for Fort Hill.
Both teams scored on their first possessions, Brunswick on a five-play, 58-yard possession that ended with a 29-yard halfback option pass from Jake Struss to Price. Fort Hill answered with a 50-yard, eight-play drive with Squires scoring on a short sneak.
Fort Hill went up 14-8 after a blocked punt by Rashaan Shives gave the Sentinels the ball at the Railroaders 18. After a 15-yard run by Elbin, Shives scored on a three-yard burst with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
A nine-yard run by David Moore on fourth-and-four got Brunswick to 14-all with 8:35 left in the half. This time, Fort Hill answered in a hurry, with Darr, on first-and-10 from the 26, dashing 74 yards to give the Sentinels a 21-14 edge.
But Nusbaum dumped a middle screen pass to Price, who outran everyone on a 57-yard touchdown a minute later. An interception and 63-yard return to the Fort Hill 22 by Joey Conrad set up the final first-half touchdown. After an 18-yard pass to Price, Moore powered up the gut for the score and 27-21 halftime lead.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org