Southern of Anne Arundel County, off to its best start in five seasons, was brought back to earth yesterday at Wilde Lake.
The No. 4 Wildecats used its running game to monopolize the football and win, 34-0, in a matchup of Class 2A teams.
Wilde Lake (3-0) stayed on the ground for 53 of 55 offensive plays (Southern, by contrast, had 39 downs) and rushed for all 237 of its yards.
Highly recruited Raphael Wall, who ran 20 times for 153 yards, scored all three of his touchdowns before halftime, sparking a 27-0 lead.
Southern, which had opened 2-0 for the first time since 1986, did not gain its first first down (of two total) until 7 minutes, 24 seconds remained in the third quarter. The Bulldogs finished with 49 yards of offense.
Both coaches said the key was a veteran Wilde Lake offensive line, led by center Len Cotter, guard Darius Waters and tackle Andre McCallum, that made ball control possible.
"The line did a great job. It's a big factor in our game plan," said Wildecats coach Doug DuVall, whose team has outscored its first three opponents, 110-9. "They're good kids and they're bright kids who really take pride in their play."
McCallum said that he, Cotter and McCallum -- all seniors -- have a combined 11 seasons' varsity experience. "And it's like a family here," Waters said.
According to Cotter: "We lead the team. We have a lot of pride and take a lot of responsibility for what happens on the field."
The trio helped open gaping holes, as Wilde Lake scored on three of its first four possessions. Quarterback Mike Jones capped the first, a 45-yard drive, by running a reverse keeper from 7 yards out.
Wall -- a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder who is being courted by Michigan, Clemson and Maryland, among others -- scored on runs of 8, 9 and 2 yards to open the 27-0 halftime bulge.
Wilde Lake's one moment of first-half futility came on a botched handoff and fumble at Southern's 1. However, Brent Guyton recovered a fumble by Southern's Stephen Griner at the 8 two plays later, and Wall immediately scored on an 8-yard run behind guard Blaize Connelly.
Southern coach Buck Gardner, whose team was led by defensive linemen Sam Makell and Jason Sutherland, said: "Hopefully, we learned something today. If we didn't, we're stupid.
"When you play good people, you should get better. He [DuVall] has good people," Gardner said. "They have a good-sized offensive line and they're well-coached. That's why they win consistently, year in and year out."