With a 21-0 victory over Joppatowne Friday night, C. Milton Wright clinched at least a tie for the county football championship.
Kenny Batten rushed for 93 yards on 20 carries to lead Wright (9-0 overall, 7-0 league) past the Mariners (7-2, 5-2). But the Mustangs needed some big plays from Israel Sostrin to spark them out of a slow start.
Sostrin, a senior, carried the ball 11 times for 51 yards and had an interception. His first big play came late in the third quarter, with the Mustangs clinging to a 7-0 lead.
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound running back juggled a pass from quarterback Jeff Hawk but pulled it in for a 15-yard gain. Although the Mustangs' drive was stopped on the Joppatowne 8-yard line, Sostrin's heroics brought new life to the offense.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Mustangs put together a 46-yard, 10-play drive that ended in a touchdown on Hawks' quarterback sneak. Mike Weichart added the point after to give the Mustangs a 14-0 lead.
But Sostrin wasn't finished. On Joppatowne's first play after the kickoff, he picked off a Damon Davies pass and went 20 yards for a touchdown.
Sostrin, who carries close to a perfect grade point average in school, also had a hand in nine tackles as a linebacker.
Although Wright has outscored its opponents, 251-31, this season, the Mustangs had trouble getting their offense on track against Joppatowne.
"We're a slow-starting team, and for some reason we always have been," Harward said. "But our kids are in pretty good condition, and we came through with a better second half." In the first half, Wright piled up 105 yards on penalties, setting its offense back on almost every drive.
Hawk scored the first touchdown on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 6:37 to go in the first quarter. Weichart added the point after.
Although each team had a first-half turnover, the Mustangs missed several good scoring opportunities. A roughing-the-kicker penalty early in the first half cost them, as did an interception thrown by Hawk late in the second quarter.
Davies (4-for-19, 39 yards), the Joppatowne quarterback, threw a first half interception that was picked off by Wright's Mark Johnson.
Wright ended up with 325 total yards, including 245 rushing. The Mariners finished with 103 total yards.
Wright has only Thursday night's Fallston (2-6) game standing in the way of sole possession of the county title.
If Wright loses, Aberdeen (7-2, 6-1) could also claim a piece of the title. Aberdeen beat North Harford on Friday, 55-14.
The Mustangs also need to beat Fallston to keep their state playoff hopes alive. Going into Friday's game, Wright led the Class 3A, Region III standings with a 9.62 point average. But Dundalk (7-1) was close behind with a 8.5 average.
If the Mustangs beat Fallston, they should edge out Dundalk for the regional title even if Dundalk wins its remaining game.
The Mariners are a shoo-in for the Class 1A playoffs. In Region III, the Mariners have a commanding lead over defending state champ Kent. Even if Joppatowne loses its final game at Edgewood, it would still win the regional.