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ALAN ZUZIC/THE PRESS Micah Fick and John Ruggierio chase down Liberty quarterback Derek Byrd. ALAN ZUZIC/THE PRESS Micah Fick and John Ruggierio chase down Liberty quarterback Derek Byrd.

Football drops heartbreaker

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 by TODD KRESS Special to the Press in HS Sports

The Emmaus football team erased a 21-3 third quarter deficit against Liberty on Friday night at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium and it seemed evident the Hornets' final-minute score would be enough to overcome their sluggish first half of play.

Quarterback Andrew Kerson connected with wideout Jacob Maehrer in the right corner of the end zone with just 49 seconds remaining in the game. Maehrer's catch, as he maintained possession while falling to the ground, gave the Hornets a 22-21 lead after a failed two-point conversion.

But there was still valuable time left on the clock for the Hurricanes. And after driving to the Hornets' 15-yard line with seconds remaining, the Hurricanes had an opportunity to capture their first win of the season. The result - a 32-yard field goal that gave the Hurricanes a 24-22 lead with 3.7 seconds left. That score stood as the final as a final Hail Mary was knocked down by the Hurricanes.

After falling behind 14-3 and giving up 145 yards on the ground to the Hurricanes (1-6, 1-5) in the first half, the Hornets may have been a bit fortunate to take the lead at the end.

"We were very fortunate," said head coach Joe Bottiglieri. "We just didn't finish the job. We couldn't stop them on defense.

"We turned it over and we missed blocks. We didn't perform in the first half."

While the Hornets (4-3, 3-3) rallied to score 19 unanswered points and take their first lead of the game after going up 3-0 late in the first quarter, the defense wasn't able to slow down the Hurricanes' offense in that final drive.

"We came back and took the lead and then we couldn't hold the lead for 48 seconds," said Bottiglieri. "We just couldn't hold them. Our defense didn't rise up and hold them."

The comeback started at the end of the third quarter. Off a fake toss to the outside, Maehrer took a handoff up the middle and scampered 20 yards for his first of three touchdowns to bring the Hornets to within 21-10 with 33 seconds left in the third.

Just minutes later, Maehrer was on the receiving end of an 11-yard touchdown strike from Kerson that made it 21-16 with 8:05 to play. A two-point conversion would've made it a field goal game. Instead, the Hornets would need at least another touchdown.

That score came three possessions later and gave the Hornets that 22-21 lead after Kerson threw his second touchdown to Maehrer in the final moments.

Kerson threw interceptions on each of the previous two drives. One was just off the hands of Maehrer, but the Hornets forced punts on three-and-outs and remained unscathed. In all, Emmaus committed four turnovers, missed two field goals and failed to convert on two two-point conversions.

"We gave them some scores in the first half that we shouldn't have - the interception for a touchdown and the long run on the dive set up a touchdown," said Bottiglieri. "We turned it over and we missed blocks. We didn't perform in the first half."

The Hornets threw the ball 26 times, a formula Emmaus didn't necessarily expect going into the game. Kerson finished 16-of-26 for 235 yards and two touchdowns compared to three interceptions.

"We thought we would be able to run the ball a little bit better," said Bottiglieri. "But we couldn't run the ball very well."

Running back Wyllim Miller carried 14 times for 79 yards, while Velasco added seven yards on seven carries. Maehrer ran for 28 and a score.

Wideout Kyzir White had a team-high 89 yards receiving. Maehrer had 80 yards through the air and two scores.

"It doesn't matter where you play, you got to finish the job," said Bottiglieri. "You got to perform and you got to finish the job. And we didn't do that."

The Hornets will now endure the toughest part of their schedule as they're set to face three of the toughest LVC squads. First up Whitehall, as the Hornets will host the Zephyrs on Friday night at 7 p.m.