Wright stumbles in semis for third consecutive year

November 26, 1994|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Contributing Writer

After watching his team's state championship hopes wilt in the semifinals the past two seasons, C. Milton Wright coach Steve Harward knew his players were feeling a sense of urgency heading into last night's Class 3A state semifinal matchup with visiting Wheaton.

"It's nice being here every year," said Harward, "but you can see it in their eyes, the responsibility they're carrying in trying to go further."

What turnovers didn't do to destroy C. Milton Wright's chances of advancing to next week's finale, Wheaton's offense did. The Knights of Montgomery County mixed the run and pass to perfection, capitalized on four turnovers and came away with a 27-6 victory.

Wheaton (11-1) will face Seneca Valley, a 35-6 winner over Thomas Johnson, in next Saturday's state title game.

"Critical mistakes hurt us," said Harward. "Wheaton is a physical team, more physical than I thought, and they used their linebackers to shut down our traps and we had nowhere to go."

The Knights, who entered the game on a 10-game winning streak after losing their opener 44-7 to Seneca Valley, found themselves in good field position midway through the first quarter when Wright quarterback Duane Fisher fumbled near midfield.

Nine plays later -- seven of them runs by Wheaton fullback Kevin Johnson -- the Knights scored on a 19-yard reception by Byron Moody.

Two uncatchable passes by Fisher forced the Mustangs to punt, but Fisher redeemed himself by picking off his 11th pass of the season.

C.M. Wright (10-2) moved the ball inside Wheaton's 20, but a shotgun snap sailed over the outstretched hands of Fisher, bringing the Mustangs' punting unit back on the field.

A roughing-the-punter call against Wheaton gave the Mustangs another chance, but Fisher then fumbled on an option play.

C. Milton Wright's defense held on Wheaton's next possession; however, an invalid fair-catch signal enabled the Knights to rekick, and a muff by the Mustangs' punt returner set them up at the Wright 24-yard line.

Wheaton stalled on the series, but a 24-yard field goal by Chris Taosent the Mustangs headed to the locker room at the half trailing 10-0.

"We saw them play Franklin and we knew they could move the ball on the ground, and we wanted to keep their offense off the field as long as possible," said Wheaton coach Lee Branthover. "They were pounding on us for a while, but we made some adjustments and started pounding them back."

The Knights added to their lead on the opening drive of the second half and were up 17-0 after a 35-yard pass from Danny Ray to tight end Richard Gomez.

Wheaton added three more on its next possession when Tao kicked a 39-yard field goal to give his team a 20-0 lead with 1:56 left in the third.

With time running out in their season, the Mustangs went to the air and were greeted with yet another turnover. A 42-yard interception return by Tao helped set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Johnson and gave the Knights a 27-0 lead with 7:52 left.

The Mustangs completed their first pass with 5:25 left, and Richie Juergenson's 1-yard plunge thwarted the Knights' shutout bid but did little to ease the Mustangs' pain.

"We kept giving up the big play and we just couldn't get in a flow," said Fisher. "One play we would fire out and next play we would just putt out."

Wheaton .. .7 3 10 7 -- 27

C.M. Wright 0 0 0 6 --. 6

-- Moody 19 pass from Ray (Tao kick)

W -- FG Tao 24

W -- Gomez 35 pass from Ray (Tao kick)

W -- FG Tao 39

W -- Johnson 11 run (Tao kick)

CMW -- Juergenson 1 run (pass failed)

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