Wilde Lake puts streaks on line against Cambridge in title game Seeks 3rd straight state championship

November 27, 1992|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

For a quick education on Wilde Lake's football program, look at the winning streaks.

Until a one-point, overtime defeat against Southern of Anne Arundel County in September, Wilde Lake had won 28 straight games. The Wildecats then beat their next seven county opponents, running their streak to 28 straight wins against the league. That secured their fourth consecutive county championship and their 13th during coach Doug DuVall's 19-year tenure.

But the Wildecats are seeking to extend a more important streak today against Cambridge in the state Class 1A championship game at Byrd Stadium in College Park (4 p.m.). With a victory, the Wildecats will become the first Baltimore-area school and the second in state history to win three consecutive state championships. Springbrook (Montgomery) turned the hat trick from 1979 to 1981.

"They [Wilde Lake] are a successful program with a great head coach and a great staff, and they are used to winning," said Cambridge coach Doug Fleetwood. "They can hurt you in many ways."

Both teams are accustomed to winning, although Wilde Lake has been more successful in the biggest games. Cambridge has made 11 playoff trips in 14 seasons under Fleetwood, and the Vikings won a state title in 1979. They've also lost four championship games. Wilde Lake, which won its first state crown in 1985, never has lost in three trips to the finals.

"That's really a plus for us," DuVall said. "The kids have been there, they've been in that stadium, they've come from behind to win there before."

To make more history, the Wildecats (11-1) must solve one major problem: stop, or at least slow, a run-and-shoot offense that Cambridge(11-1) has unleashed on its Eastern Shore neighbors with startling success. The run-and-shoot, primarily a passing attack, seeks to spread opposing defenses by employing four wide receivers and one running back.

Cambridge comes into today's game averaging 38 points and is led by quarterback Dietrich Johnson, one of several speedy skill-position players. Johnson has passed for 1,652 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for seven touchdowns. In playoff victories over Brunswick and Northern, he rushed and passed for more than 100 yards.

Johnson's favorite target is H-back Gary Bryan (18 receptions, 509 yards, nine touchdowns). Fullback Tori Willis gives the Vikings balance on the ground. He has rushed for 1,477 yards and 20 touchdowns.

"I woke up at 4:30 a.m. the other day thinking about pass coverages," said Wilde Lake defensive coach Mike Harrison. "It's our biggest challenge of the year. They're equal to us in speed. One little mistake can beat you in a game like this."

Wilde Lake's defense is accustomed to forcing mistakes. Wilde Lake opponents have committed 43 turnovers this year, including 20 in the past four games. The Wildecats have lost the ball twice during that stretch, 15 times all season.

Defensive ends Nate Cassella and Mike Green and linebackers Donald Gibson and Paul Knox -- who has played two fine games after missing two months with a forearm fracture -- are the backbone of a Wilde Lake defense that has surrendered only 63 points and recorded seven shutouts. Knox had 10 solo tackles and intercepted two fourth-quarter passes in last week's 35-14, semifinal victory over Easton. He could be a key factor today.

Unlike Cambridge, which prefers the big-play strike, the Wildecats grind out drives on the ground behind Green (936 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Cassella (539 yards, 11 touchdowns), who has been terrific since moving from tight end to running back at midseason. Cassella has rushed for 253 yards and four touchdowns in two playoff games.

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