Wilde Lake: As easy as 1-2-3-4? 5-5 'Cats seeking 4th straight title

November 11, 1993|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

Despite a 5-5 record, its worst since 1987, Wilde Lake High's football team has a shot at accomplishing something that no Maryland football team ever has -- winning four straight state championships.

If Wilde Lake can win its next three games, starting with tomorrow night's Class 1A 7:30 quarterfinal at second-seeded Boonsboro (9-1), the seventh-seeded Wildecats can silence their critics and redeem a disappointing season.

Entering this season, the Wildecats had won 10 straight games and 47 of their past 50. They expected more of the same. But a series of bad breaks and mistakes cost them three games in the closing seconds that appeared to be won. They easily could be 8-2.

The players are trying to put those tough losses behind them.

"In the end, we'll be remembered for whether or not we won the state title," senior lineman Jay Green said. "No one will remember our record. So we're approaching the playoffs like a whole new season."

Some say that the only thing lacking on this season's Wilde Lake football team is heart.

Others say it lacks the outstanding defensive players that led it to three straight Class 1A championships.

And still others put the blame for the 5-5 season on the school's small enrollment and not having enough able-bodied players.

There's probably some truth to all three. They failed to hold leads three times, losing once in overtime, once on the game's last play and once with 10 seconds left.

Green thinks the defense lacked enough experience early.

"We only had three defensive starters back from last year," he said. "The Wilde Lake fans have been upset with us, but they don't understand how many new people we have. They love you when you're winning, but hate you when you're not doing so well."

He thinks the team will silence the critics, starting with Boonsboro of Washington County tomorrow night.

Green says last week's 41-0 rout of Centennial was no fluke.

"The defense is clicking now and we're in gear for the playoffs," he said. "Boonsboro has big boys who like to hit and they have a couple of stud running backs, so our defense will have to hold them down."

Coach Doug DuVall sees a combination of factors that led to this year's disappointing record.

"But the hardest thing is not having enough kids. There's no one in our school who could play who's not playing," he said.

His teams lost in the playoffs in 1988 and 1989, but went all the way in 1985, 1990, 1991 and 1992. Wilde Lake never has lost in the finals.

DuVall is encouraged by the way his team played against Centennial.

"The way we looked against Centennial was the way I thought we'd look all year," he said.

Wilde Lake used the run-and-shoot offense against the Eagles, something they were expected to play most of the season. But quarterback Seth Willingham injured his back in the preseason and a lack of practice with that offense caused DuVall to use the wishbone instead.

Wilde Lake lacked a third strong running back to make the wishbone as effective as it had been in the state championship seasons, however. So, the Wildecats kept practicing the run-and-shoot until they gained confidence in it.

Willingham had his biggest day as a passer against Centennial, completing 14 of 20 for 353 yards and four touchdowns.

"My injury set us back on the run-and-shoot, but everyone seems comfortable with it now," said Willingham, who has 1,294 yards passing.

Assistant coach Harry Hawkins, who has scouted Boonsboro five times, thinks the key to victory for Wilde Lake will be to spread out Boonsboro's defense.

"Teams that move the ball on them go through the air," he said. "We can't try and slug it out with them. This will be the toughest test we've ever had in a first-round game, but the kids are starting to believe in themselves."

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