Goal near, Wildecats cut no deals Happy but purposeful, they can taste state title

November 15, 1996|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Is that laughter coming from the practice field behind the gymnasium at Wilde Lake? It's probably from one of coach Doug DuVall's famous pre-practice jokes.

The Wildecats certainly have plenty to be happy about these days. They are 10-0, Howard County champs and will host Middletown in the Class 2A state quarterfinals tomorrow. They are scoring 37.2 points per game and averaging 362 yards total )) offense while giving up 4.4 points.

A lot of the credit for where they are belongs to the offensive line and the way junior guard Garth Herdrick sees it, one of the most necessary qualities an offensive lineman needs is a sense of humor.

"Because no one ever pays any attention to you," Herdrick said.

Not completely true. The fans may not. The press may not. But running backs such as Dain Lewis do.

"They are my horses," Lewis said as he looked upon the linemen with that special smile reserved for his favorite people.

One of the yardsticks of a good offensive line is whether it produces a 1,000-yard running back. By that measurement, Wilde Lake is exceptional. It has produced two 1,000-yard rushers -- Lewis with 1,514 and Sean Jefferson with 1,005. Lewis also has scored 184 of Wilde Lake's 372 points.

Another measurement of a good line is how well it protects its quarterback.

"Our quarterback hasn't been sacked yet this year, so I guess he feels pretty safe," said senior center Pat Chamberlain.

"I feel very safe," said junior quarterback Derek Bell, who has completed 26 of 48 passes for 537 yards.

In the past, while winning four state and 13 county championships, Wilde Lake has produced a steady flow of All-County linemen. This year will be no different, but this group seems to have a chemistry that was lacking last season.

"A large part of line play is trusting the guy next to you," said three-year starter Josh Vanderwagen.

The linemen think they have meshed better this season because they are working much harder in practice than last year.

"In the past, we would cut some deals and make it easier on ourselves in practice," said Vanderwagen, who at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds has a good shot at playing college football. "This year, we cut no deals. There are days when coach DuVall stops practice and tells us to turn the physical aspect down."

Chamberlain said: "Our practices are intense. It's torture, but it has paid off."

"We want to win a state championship bad, and we want 200 wins for coach DuVall," Vanderwagen said. "We want it bad."

The state championship game would be Wilde Lake's 13th win this season and DuVall's 200th victory overall.

Wilde Lake won three straight state titles from 1990-1992, but the Wildecats haven't won one since 1992 and haven't been to the playoffs since 1993, when they lost in the first round to Boonsboro. They have helped remind themselves of their goal this season by wearing "Return to Glory" T-shirts.

So far, they all agree their toughest game was against Atholton, a 21-7 victory.

"It was definitely the toughest for us linemen," Vanderwagen said.

As for the playoffs, they are confident that the coaching staff has worked overtime preparing scouting reports on every possible opponent and that those reports will pay off.

"We may not be the best team, but we'll be the best prepared," Herdrick said.

Wilde Lake starts nine seniors on offense, so if they lose there'll be no cry of "wait until next year."

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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