Thirteen turned out to be an unlucky number for C. Milton Wright's football team.
Instead of topping off their season with a 13th victory, the Mustangs had to settle for reaching the state title game for the first time in the school's 11-year history. Their Cinderella season came up one game short, as McDonough won the state Class 3A championship, 33-20, Friday night at Friendly High School in Prince George's County.
"It was a great season -- to go all the way undefeated to the championship game. But the better team won," Kenny Batten, the Mustangs' senior running back, said.
Batten, who had 205 all-purpose yards, provided some second-half heroics on defense. Doubling as a defensive end, he recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter and ran 65 yards into the end zone. Mike Weichert kicked the extra point to bring the Mustangs (12-1) within 19-13.
"You would have thought that would give us a little momentum," Batten said. "But it didn't happen that way."
Instead, the Rams got two quick touchdowns to snap C. Milton Wright's comeback drive.
All season long the Mustangs have had come up with big plays and lucky breaks in their bid to join Joppatowne and Havre de Grace as the only county teams to win state titles. This time, however, luck was not with them.
"Like I've said all along, this is a group of overachievers," Coach Steve Harward said. "They worked hard for everything they got. They just hit a better football team at the end."
The Mustangs had been lucky to catch Oakland Mills without its two best rushers in last week's 13-7 overtime semifinal victory. But McDonough, which also won state titles in 1983 and 1985, came fully loaded.
The Rams (12-1) had junior Sherron Gudger (more than 1,500 yards, 24 touchdowns) and senior Roosevelt Lee (more than 1,200 yards, 11 touchdowns).
Gudger, who ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries, and Lee, who ran for 101 yards and one touchdown on seven carries, killed the Mustangs all night. Wright couldn't contend with the speed of either one coming out of the wing-T offense.
"Our backside linebackers could get there," Harward said. "We haven't played against the wing-T since week five.
"They had great team speed. We knew we had to defend the kid (Gudger), but we couldn't get it done."
In its last seven games, McDonough has allowed just 34 points. The Rams made up for their only setback of the season, a 39-0 rout by Northern, by beating the Calvert County powerhouse, 10-7, in the state semifinal game last week.
In the first half, C. Milton Wright scored on its first possession after Harward elected to go on a fourth and three from McDonough's 33-yard line.
Quarterback Jeff Hawk handed off to Batten, who ran for a 10-yard pickup.
Weichert kicked a 33-yard field goal with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
McDonough didn't take long to come back. Less than a minute later, Gudger slipped through the Mustangs' line and ran 56 yards for a touchdown.
The kick failed.
The Mustangs had their next best chance to score early in the second quarter. Gudger appeared headed for another long touchdown run, but Keith Wilson caught him by the arm at the 5-yard line. Gudger fumbled the ball out of the end zone and it was turned over to Wright on its own 20-yard line.
The Mustangs ground up short yardage to the McDonough 46 but coughed up a costly fumble.
After McDonough got the ball on the Mustangs' 41-yard line, the Rams finished off a 10-play drive, including a 26-yard run by Gudger, with a 1-yard touchdown by Gudger with 1:44 to go in the half. The conversion attempt failed.
Weichert added a second field goal to bring the Mustangs to within 12-6 right before halftime.
In the third quarter, Gudger ran in another 1-yard touchdown and Loredo added the point after. The Rams led, 19-6, with 4:47 left.
After Batten scored off the fumble recovery, Wright appeared to have the momentum going its way, but McDonough came right back. The Rams (12-1) got back-to-back touchdowns a little more than two minutes apart from Gudger and Lee to clinch the game and the title.
Gudger broke two tackles and ran 77 yards up the middle for a touchdown with 8:54 to go. Lee scored on a 36-yard run after teammate Jarrett Datcher picked off a pass from Jeff Hawk.
Mike Laredo kicked the extra point after each score.
The Mustangs got their final score on a 3-yard run by Israel Sostrin with 2:02 left in the game. Hawk's 26-yard pass to Weichert and an 11-yarder to Sostrin set up the score.