* State playoff results, schedule on Scoreboard, Page E8. In one game earlier this season -- just one half, in fact -- Wilde Lake's Raphael Wall scored five touchdowns.
Impressive? Sure, but the Wildecats' defense gave up only four touchdowns (none on the ground) in all 10 regular-season games. And although Wall deservedly earned headlines, the defensive unit, unencumbered by attention-getting, cutesy nicknames, has steadily accumulated some spectacular numbers of its own.
Saturday, when a scrappy, quick Douglass team defused the usually explosive Wilde Lake offense, the defense kept its poise and led the Wildecats (12-0) into the state 2A final with a 14-12 win.
With a school-record 43 takeaways thus far, six defensive shutouts (the offense gave up a safety in one), and 19 interceptions by the secondary, Wilde Lake players are quick to credit defensive coordinator Ed Ashwell for their success.
"Coach Ashwell does a great job with scouting reports," said senior cornerback Joey Guyton, a major college prospect with 4.4 speed for 40 yards. "We know what plays they're going to run from every formation . . . They do a great job in practice with all the drills and they put in different stunts every week."
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Guyton, also a punt returner, draws the opponent's top receiver each week and has six interceptions this year. Senior safety Ricky Rowe, the defensive captain and signal caller for two years, also has six. Seniors Adam Tyer and Dan Burns, with four and three interceptions respectively, round out the secondary. Tyer, Ashwell said, "never had a pass completed all year against him."
"Our philosophy," said Ashwell, "is speed, aggressiveness and gang-tackling . . . We change defenses every week according to the other offense. By changing weekly, it makes it easier for us to make adjustments during a game."
The Wildecats' defense gave up only 29 points during the regular season, just 15 of which came on drives longer than 50 yards, Ashwell said. And, with many lopsided wins, "A lot of times the yardage and touchdowns given up were because we put the second-team kids in," said head coach Doug DuVall. Two playoff opponents have added three touchdowns and 18 points to those totals.
Until Saturday, the defenders hadn't been truly pressured all year, yet they challenged themselves. "One of our goals this year was to not get scored on," Rowe said. "So there was always a little game within ourselves."
Seniors Ben Casella and Denny Trager at outside linebacker and Eric Sutton inside were expected to be solid. But junior inside linebacker Brent Guyton "has been a real surprise," DuVall said.
Almost reluctantly, but with a touch of sibling pride, Joey Guyton said of his brother, "I was very surprised. I didn't think he was going to be that good."
Up front, senior tackle Darius Waters (6 feet, 245) is the anchor. "He's not real fast [4.9 for the 40], but he's big and strong," said Ashwell. "And he's smart, he knows how to play, and he has good techniques."
Seniors Blaize Connelly-Duggin at tackle and intense 5-10, 170-pound nose guard Tony Farace also start on the line. Senior Len Cotter and junior James Easterly help out.
The Wildecats face Damascus (11-1) Friday night at 7:30 at South Carroll. Wilde Lake lost to Damascus in last year's state semifinals, 20-12.
"They know that defense is going to carry us," said Ashwell. "The kids take a lot of pride in that."