In the end, the Old Mill football team simply had too much to overcome. And that was evident long before the night's opponent had arrived.
With its best player limited to spot duty because of an ankle injury and another key member hobbled by a similar ailment, Old Mill was far from peak condition heading into Friday night's 4A state quarterfinal against Thomas Wootton.
And the fifth-seeded visitors from Montgomery County (11-0) didn't squander their opportunity, using a series of big-yardage plays to post a 17-7 victory over the fourth-seeded Patriots (9-2).
Senior running back William Beverly tried to ignore the pain coming from his right ankle, the result of strained ligaments suffered in last Friday's game at Glen Burnie. But he finally succumbed after one unproductive half, when he gained just 16 yards, and his team eventually did likewise.
"There was just no way William could go," said Old Mill coach Pete Regala, who led the program to its first-ever Region IV championship and playoff appearance. "I told him when he couldn't do it, let me know. And he came to me at halftime and said, 'Coach, I'm done.' " Surprisingly, the Patriots weren't, though they trailed, 14-0, after Wootton's Marlon Evans went 34 yards on a reverse for a second-quarter touchdown, and Shawn Thomas followed with an 8-yard scoring catch.
"We felt at halftime we were still in the game," said Old Mill senior lineman Taray Rollins. "We went up on the hill and talked about it. We said, 'We'll come out there and stick it to them after halftime.' " Senior quarterback Eric Scott recovered from a slow start to lead a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that, coupled with Steve Oliver's extra-point, would slice Wootton's lead in half, 14-7, with 9 minutes, 40 seconds still to play. But the visitors, behind the breakaway running of Thomas (82 yards), came right back with a Geoff Pearce 32-yard field goal that put the game out of reach.
"That kid's a good quarterback. We were real scared of him coming in," Wootton coach Bob Hampton said of Scott, who threw for 97 yards.
"Thank God they had a couple of their key people hurt, but they were still a real good football team, anyway."
Regala said, "We went in there the best we could, and everyone gave it the best they could. I'm proud of them. Even though we lost, I'm still proud of this team.
"We wish we were a little healthier, but we had some guys who played their hearts out."
Junior running back Harold Peters was one of them. With his right ankle not at full strength due to a sprain that kept him out of the 16-7 win over Glen Burnie, Peters didn't enter Friday's game until the second half.
The Old Mill offense came to life once he hobbled onto the field. He had six carries for 49 yards during the Patriots' lone scoring drive, which ended with a Scott 20-yard touchdown pass over the middle to sophomore Brian Jones.
"I tried my hardest and that's all anybody could do," Peters said.
Including Scott, eight different Patriots carried the ball. Five-foot-2 junior Derric Johnson started in place of Beverly (who had scored 20 touchdowns this season) and gained 61 yards.
Old Mill's final drive of the 1990 season ended on the Wootton 33. On fourth-and-15, the Patriots threw off a reverse play, but Dackren Coleman's pass to tight end Ernie Longazel on the goal line fell incomplete.
"Old Mill will be back next year," Rollins said.
Regala can only hope the same untimely injuries won't.