After a slow three quarters, Indiana's 8th grade FBUNC team capitalized on some momentum-building plays in the 4th quarter and overcame a 12-point deficit, beating a big and fast Maryland team 17-15.
Indiana looked flat for the majority of the game, unable to get any sort of momentum going due to a massive Maryland defensive line, who swarmed into the backfield on almost every play. Indiana quarterback Lashon Bright was visibly frustrated during Indiana's first quarter drives when his offensive line failed to hold their blocks.
The Maryland offense had slightly more success, with running back Keilan Robinson hitting a hole hard and shrugging off two defenders for a 25-yard TD run halfway through the second quarter to make the score 9-0.
By the start of the fourth quarter, it appeared as though Maryland had the game well in hand. Maryland's Kameron Snell took the ball into the end zone on a two-yard quarterback sneak to make the score 15-3.
But with 5:16 left in the game, Indiana mounted a fierce comeback.
Following the Maryland score, Indiana return man Bryce Kirtz took the next kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. On the next play, Indiana recovered an onside kick at the Maryland 47 yard line. They capped the drive with a brilliant 25-yard TD pass from quarterback Ben Slaton to receiver Colin Gardner in the corner of the end zone, giving Indiana the go-ahead score.
"I knew [the TD play] was going to be open on the corner, and it was," Gardner said. "I never doubted it for a second."
Indiana head coach Will Retherford said Gardner called for the ball and he supported the decision.
"He was due all day," Retherford said. "We got together right before [the pass] and I asked him what he wanted to do. He said 'give me the corner,' so that's what we did."
Retherford said he was proud his team poured on the effort late in the game, but he wasn't surprised.
"This has always been a very resilient team that never gives up on the possibility of winning," he said. "When we got to that point right at the end of the game we said 'this is it, we've got to get it done now.'"
"We're really strong as a team. We pumped each other up and we stayed in it," he said.
On the other side of the field, a beaten Maryland team stood silent and stunned as the clock ticked to zero.
"I guess I'm just in shock right now," Maryland head coach Terrence Byrd said after the game.
Byrd said there were several controversial calls in the game that sapped Maryland's forward progress, including a costly pass interference penalty that kept an Indiana drive alive and a fumble recovered by Maryland that was later ruled down by contact.
"When the calls don't go our way, it's tough to get momentum," Byrd said. "Normally, I don't look at the referees, but this was a tough one."
Indiana's win brings them to the Eastern regional finals game on Sunday afternoon, where they will take on Massachusetts.
Written by Youth1 Contributor Sam Hedenberg
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