SYKESVILLE - Wilde Lake completed its first perfect season and won its second state football championship Friday night, when halfback Raphael Wall scored a 4-yard touchdown in overtime to beat Damascus 13-7 in a hard-fought Class 2A final at South Carroll High School.
Wall entered the game with nearly 1,700 yards rushing, and the final play of his brilliant high school career couldn't have been more dramatic.
The Wildecats (13-0) had taken a 7-0 halftime lead on halfback Damon Hamlin's 15-yard touchdown run, but Wall had set the tone for Wilde Lake by rushing for 73 of its 132 total first-half yards. Near the end of the half, however, Wall began suffering from cramps in his calves.
The cramps persisted in the second half, limiting his quickness noticeably. And while Damascus (Montgomery County) was getting its offense untracked -- the Hornets tied the game with 7:44 left on quarterback Matt Byrne's 3-yard run -- Wall gained just 8 yards on five second-half carries.
But on third-and-goal at the Damascus 4 in overtime and a state title waiting on the other side of the goal line, Wall took a pitchout and burst over left tackle into the end zone. Hundreds of Wildecats fans stormed the field.
"They're (his calves) hard as rocks right now. Very bad," said Wall.
"Every time I put pressure on my toes, both legs would lock up. But this is the state championship game. I didn't care if my leg was broken, I was going back in there. My mind just shut (the pain) out. I knew I had to score."
Damascus (11-2), which eliminated Wilde Lake in last year's 2A semifinal, outplayed the Wildecats in the second half, mostly by keeping the ball away from them.
The Hornets tied the score with a 12-play, 90-yard drive that consumed six minutes. But after stopping the Wildecats as time ran out in regulation, Damascus handed them a golden opportunity in overtime.
In overtime, each team gets four chances to score from its opponent's 10-yard line. The first team to score and hold the opponent is declared the winner.
Damascus won the coin toss and took over at the Wilde Lake 10. The first play was disastrous, as Byrne attempted to hand off to fullback Bucky Clipper, but fumbled the exchange. Ben Casella recovered for Wilde Lake.
Hamlin carried for six yards to the Hornets' 4. Casella was stopped for no gain. But on third down, Wall finished the job.
"The kids just kept on coming," said Wilde Lake coach Doug DuVall. "We tried to make some adjustments after Raphael started cramping. It affected us a lot. But he was taking it in. He's the best running back around."
After the teams traded punts to start the game, Damascus got the game's first drive going. Ryan Hudy intercepted a pass by Wilde Lake quarterback Phil White, and the Hornets moved 40 yards to the Wildecats' 11. But on fourth down, Dan Whitehead missed a 28-yard field goal.
Two possessions later, Wilde Lake opened the scoring with a seven-play, 54-yard drive, highlighted by White's 21-yard pass to Hamlin on third-and-10. Two 7-yard runs by Wall put the ball on the Damascus 15, and Hamlin ran in for the score on the next play with 4:08 left in the half.
The Hornets drove twice on Wilde Lake to start the second half. The first drive was stopped by Casella's interception. But after Joel Smith killed a Wilde Lake drive with an interception at the Damascus 10, the Hornets marched 90 yards on 12 plays -- thanks mostly to the tough running of Clipper, who picked up 46 yards on the drive.
"I was scared when we went into overtime," said Hamlin.