Three months ago, not even the Mustangs and coach Steve Harward expected to find C. Milton Wright's football team playing for the state Class 3A championship on the eve of December.
Only seven seniors were back, nobody on the team was over 6 feet tall, and a strong season looked questionable. Back then, Harward only talked about having a rebuilding year.
Instead, the Mustangs plowed through the regular season, outscoring the opposition, 291-31, with six shutouts. Their 10-0 regular season record was the best in the school's history.
In the first two rounds of the state playoffs, the Mustangs looked impressive. They beat Dundalk, 28-6, and Oakland Mills, 13-7, to earn a spot in last Friday night's title game against McDonough, Charles County.
The Mustangs came up with just the right blend of talent, hard work, determination -- and a little bit of luck. All of those combined to pull C.
Milton Wright through its three toughest games.
Perhaps the Mustangs' greatest asset has been its offensive line. The one area that Harward expected to be strong right from the start has not let him down. Daryl Smith (5-11, 275), Ryan Arist (6-0, 215), Jason Joines (5-10, 241), Corey Lambroff (5-11, 200) and Chad Bosley (5-11, 190) have been the key to the Mustangs' high-scoring offense.
In their first true test, the Mustangs beat Aberdeen, 14-13, on Sept. 14 -- but not without some last-minute drama. Aberdeen scored its second touchdown with just over 3 minutes left in the game, but a penalty assessed on the conversion put the ball on the 18-yard line. The conversion pass was short.
The next test came on Oct. 12, when the Mustangs met Edgewood, a team they had never beaten. In 1989, Edgewood won, 43-0. This time, the Mustangs prevailed, 7-6, on Harward's birthday.
Zi Shum, a 5-6 defensive end, provided the heroics, blocking a punt late in the first half to set up C. Milton Wright's touchdown. After the Rams scored late in the game, Chris Shue led a swarm of Mustangs who sacked Edgewood quarterback Keith Kimmel on the conversion attempt.
After finishing off the last four games amassing 121 points in lopsided shutouts, C. Milton Wright remained undefeated and clinched their first county championship.
"We knew we had the talent, we just had to prove it," said running back Kenny Batten, who led the team with 19 touchdowns. "We were predicted to finish 5-5, and that gave us a lot of incentive to do better."
In the opening round of the state playoffs, the second-seeded Mustangs had little trouble with Dundalk. Although the Mustangs turned the ball over three times, Dundalk turned it over five times. Keith Wilson and Joines recovered fumbles. Batten ran for three touchdowns, and quarterback Jeff Hawk scored the other.
Against Oakland Mills, the Mustangs got an early touchdown from Chris Gill, who broke free for a 52-yard run through the dense fog.
The Scorpions tied the game early in the fourth quarter, but Joines blocked a field goal attempt with 49 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Batten scored the game-winner by following Daryl Smith and Sostrin through a hole in the line. Although he appeared tackled at about the 4-yard line, Batten recovered and finished off his 6-yard touchdown run.
Along with Batten, who had rushed for 1,185 yards through the Oakland Mills game, the Mustangs also have offensive weapons in Gill, Israel Sostrin and receiver Mike Weichert.