The school may have gotten smaller, dropping from Class 2A to 1A to win its second consecutive state championship, 13-10 over Smithsburg at Byrd Stadium Saturday. And Wilde Lake may have done it with a little less overall talent than last year, though possibly with a little more heart. But, make no mistake, the Wildecats didn't do it with smoke and strobe lights.
Hard work, solid coaching and a strong organization had a lot to do with it. And talent, an inordinate amount for such a small school, had something to do with it, too. Consider these senior players and who is recruiting them:
* Brent Guyton, 6 feet 2, 215 pounds, linebacker -- Syracuse, Penn State, UCLA, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Michigan State.
* James Easterly, 6-5, 288, tackle -- Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Boston College.
* Damon Hamlin, 5-8, 182, running back -- Rutgers, North Carolina State, Boston College.
* Phil White, 6-2, 205, quarterback -- N.C. State, Rutgers, Howard, Morgan State.
* Andre Martin, 5-11, 185, running back/safety -- Virginia Tech,
Maryland, Rutgers, N.C. State, North Carolina.
Then there are those who aren't Division I prospects because of size or speed limitations, but who are excellent high school players. Like 220-pound, two-way tackle Blaize Connelly-Duggan and 200-pound nose guard Tony Farace. Shippensburg State, Lenoir-Rhyne and Frostburg State are interested in both of them.
And then there's former soccer goalie George Bradford, who intercepted seven passes as a safety and consistently gave Wilde Lake good field position with his kicking. Bradford punted for a 40.6-yard average over 13 games and had a knack for hitting the coffin corner and "pooching" the ball dead inside the 20. An outstanding golfer, he's planning to visit Hawaii and Wofford.
How about 200-pound left guard Brandon Easterling, unnoticed on the offensive line, but not by the coaches? "We ran behind him a lot," said coach Doug DuVall.
But there is always more than raw talent on a championship team, and Aric Swezey typifies the kind of player it takes to win. A 5-10, 155-pound fullback, safety, corner and linebacker, Swezey left everything he had on the field, game after game. In the championship game, he blocked Smithsburg's outstanding 215-pound linebacker, Tobby Williams, helping Hamlin gain 153 yards and score both touchdowns.
Despite returning punts early in the year and carrying the ball a few times each game, four carries for 19 yards against Smithsburg, few paid attention to Swezey. But last night at Wilde Lake's football banquet he won the team's Unsung Hero award. That's quite an achievement for a kid who skipped football during his sophomore year and played little as a junior.
"It tells me I didn't go unappreciated," he said. "I'm not a big guy, but I was successful blocking all year. My position was designed to block for Damon and Andre. I played my heart out every game. I got down on myself when I didn't think I was doing my best."
Swezey has now been around for all of Wilde Lake's 26-game winning streak, if not a critical factor in them all. How does he compare the two championship teams?
"Last year we had more talent," he said, "but this year, more heart. I don't think I've ever played with people, and I've played baseball, too, who wanted something more."