SALISBURY – It hadn’t gone the way they wanted, with the Vikings down 15-12 at James M. Bennett as the clock ticked down to 0.
On their last-gasp play, Cambridge-South Dorchester’s quarterback Talan Middleton heaved a pass 13 yards into the end zone, where Darren Belizaire grabbed it for the 18-15 win, with no time left on the clock.
Take a deep breath, check your pulse, and we’ll rewind to the start.
On Friday, Cambridge-South Dorchester High School (1A) traveled to Salisbury to face James M. Bennett High School (3A/2A). The Clippers came into the game 0-2 on the season, after falling to Parkside 35-12 the week before, and to Stephen Decatur 43-13 on Sept. 12.
The previous week, C-SD dominated at Snow Hill on Sept. 8, on their way to a 48-12, victory. In Week 1, they began the 2022 football season with a home game, falling to Milford, 32-6.
So in Week 3 at Wicomico County Stadium, the Vikings were going to see just what kind of team they were. They got answers to some questions, while other issues remain.
Are they quitters? Nope. They hung on and played hard right through the last play of the game.
Could they have focused more intently in the first half? Judging by what they accomplished in the final two quarters, they probably could have.
The game began with C-SD’s offense going 3 and out on their first two possessions, with Middleton having little time in the backfield to go through his progressions. On the defensive side, both teams were stout, until the Clippers’ Malachi Donaldson broke free for a 46-yard touchdown. A 2-point conversion made it 8-0 in favor of the home team.
The prize for the strangest play of the night goes to Clipper Zakai Smullen. On 4th and 34 in the second quarter, the Vikings punted, and after the ball hit the field and rolled, many of the C-SD players turned toward their bench and began walking off the field.
But no Viking had downed the ball – it was still live. Smullen scooped it up, and by the time the Vikings realized what was happening, he was on his way to a 56-yard return for the game’s second score.
A successful extra point made it 15-0 Clippers, with 7:37 to go in the second quarter. So C-SD was scoreless, with an offense that had achieved only three first downs in the half, all of them courtesy of tough running back Jaden Ferguson.
If this were a tale of two games, Bennett won the first half.
But the second half is the one that counts, and whatever happened over halftime made all the difference.
As the third quarter began, the Clippers moved downfield, and it looked like the same old thing for the Vikings. But when a 35-yard Bennett field goal attempt hit the crossbar and missed, C-SD got the ball back, and Ferguson – Fergie to his friends – raced about 30 yards to midfield.
There was no score on that drive, but the Vikings were playing with some fire in their bellies on both sides of the ball.
The tide was turning.
The final period started 15-0, and the visitors had their work cut out for them. That’s when the Darren Belizaire show began.
Middleton and Belizaire, a sophomore wide receiver and back-up quarterback – more on that later, hold on to your hats – connected for a 28-yard touchdown. After a failed 2-point try, it was 15-6 and the Vikings were rolling.
It looked like somebody hit the brakes, though, when Middleton was down on the field halfway through the fourth quarter. So in comes his backup, Belizaire, on 4th and 14.
Yeah, great – the 10th grader rose to the occasion in a big way, throwing his one pass of the night to Teshar Drummond in the end zone for C-SD’s second score. An incomplete pass from Middleton, back in the game, on a 2-point try left it 15-12 with five and a half minutes left in the game.
The Clippers were not able to sustain a drive, and the Vikings got the ball back. On 4th and 2, with their drive stalling, and apparently one last chance to score, the ball was snapped over Middleton’s head, and it was Bennett’s ball, turnover on downs.
They just had to run out the clock, and the 0-2 home team would have their first win of the season. Three snaps and kneeldowns, and that would be that.
But Clippers QB Smullen stayed in shotgun formation for those plays, and on the third one – should have been the last play of the game – he lost the ball on a bad snap.
C-SD got the ball on their own 48-yard line, with 31 seconds left.
They moved downfield, playing with confidence and desire, until the final play and score, with Belizaire holding the ball in the end zone, 18-15, game over.
The Vikings’ record improved to 2-1, Bennett’s fell to 0-3.
On Friday, the Vikings will return to their home field to face Kent Island (2-1). Game time is 6 p.m.