Wootton coach Bob Hampton sees the flashing red lights and hears the warning whistle. Even so, in today's Class 4A state title game against Randallstown, he'll send the Patriots' defense into the path of the Larry Washington Express.
Washington, the Rams' senior tailback who has run for 2,022 yards and 31 touchdowns this season, is looking to lead Randallstown (12-0) to its first state title since 1984. Hampton, whose team stunned Springbrook last week, 20-7, is wary of the task.
"We'd like to play 14 guys against him if we could," he said. "We'll just run our base package and try to slow him down." Wootton's defense has allowed just 80 points in its 12 games, despite giving up more than 400 yards of offense to Springbrook. Only six turnovers by the Blue Devils kept the Patriots in control.
Washington, at 5 feet 10 and 205 pounds, is primed for the test. He says winning a state title would be the culmination of a dream season. "It would mean a lot," he said. "I set my standards really high. As long as I know I gave it 100 percent, I'll be satisfied."
The teams will meet today at 2 p.m. at Westminster High. For Rams coach John Buchheister, the state finals are old hat.
This game will mark his third appearance in the championship game -- the most of any Baltimore County coach. The area's winningest coach in the 1980s last won a title game in 1987, when he guided Milford Mill past Havre de Grace.
"We're just going to do what we've done all year," said Buchheister. "I was surprised when they beat Springbrook, but when you've got a guy averaging 10 yards a carry, you don't change your plans much."
Wootton (12-0) is led by halfback Shawn Thomas, who has run for nearly 700 yards this season behind a big offensive line. Hampton said he plans to call mostly running plays, as he has all season.
Patriots quarterback Mike Mehok has completed 41 of 99 passes for 583 yards and three touchdowns. Rams quarterback Shaun Poulton runs an offense that has outscored opponents, 374-100.