Wildecats tracking another title Offensive trio leading Wilde Lake's quest for 5th state crown

High School Football Preview

September 05, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

The preseason headline should read: "Speedsters' reunion bodes well for defending county champion Wilde Lake."

Derek Bell, Quentin Collins and Brandon Finney of Wilde Lake (10-1 overall, 9-0 league) are back together on offense. The last time they were together as freshmen, the Wildecats' JV produced some high-scoring victories.

The three-sport trio think the same could happen this season on varsity.

Bell, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound veteran quarterback with a powerful arm completed 42 of 75 passes for 770 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He threw six interceptions.

Collins, a wide receiver, was forced to play behind talented Barrett Wragg last season, and Finney, a running back, played behind All-Metro Dain Lewis.

Instead, Collins and Finney each made a name for themselves on defense. Collins made 36 tackles and intercepted six passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns, including a back-breaker against Centennial. Finney made 40 unassisted tackles and 22 assists, and he intercepted eight passes. He rushed 15 times for 152 yards.

Collins is the fastest of the trio, running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. Finney is a 4.5 and Bell a 4.6.

All three ran track last spring for the Wildecats, who finished third in the state Class 2A meet.

Collins finished first in the county 400 (48.9) and second in the state 400 (50.24), and was second in the county 200 (22.2) and second in the state 200 ( 22.18). He was also part of the state champion 800 and 1,600 relays teams.

Bell won the county high jump (6-0) and was fifth at states (6-0). He was third in the county triple jump (41-3 1/2 ) and fifth at states. And he was third in the county long jump (20-5).

Finney, although he didn't place last season, has improved his speed this summer by running for the Columbia Express Track Club along with Collins and ran 11.3 in the 100, 22.7 in the 200 and 50.8 in the 800.

"Running track has really helped them," coach Doug DuVall said. "They are above my expectations at this point."

Some people think Wilde Lake's expectations should be a lot lower this season after graduating The Baltimore Sun's Howard County Offensive Player of the Year Lewis (1,571 yards rushing) and and county Defensive Player of the Year, Tony Jackson, both of whom were All-Metro, too. The Wildecats graduated four other All-County stars, Sean Jefferson, Kyle Leibe, Josh Vanderwagen and Pat North. All but North got college scholarships.

"Schools like Long Reach, Centennial and Oakland Mills have been doing a lot of talking," Bell said. "Even people in our own school think we'll be sorry. We haven't played a game yet and people are writing us off."

Bell, Collins and Finney think that's a mistake. "The big names are gone, so people don't know us," said Finney. "But we have every aspect covered -- even our special teams."

The Wildecats lost a lot of size but still have the overall team speed they always have been noted for. In fact, they have more speed than last year.

"We also have a lot more depth," said Finney, who finished third in the county wrestling tournament and won a regional title.

Collins, an All-County player, agreed. "Last season, we had no one to back up Brandon or me in the defensive secondary, but now we have a lot of young guys trying to make a name for themselves who are pushing us."

"People will learn to respect our defensive backs. And they'll respect people like [defensive end] Duane Kerr, who is really underrated," Finney said. Kerr led the county with 16 sacks last ++ season and like Finney, got caught in a numbers crunch when All-County honors were handed out last fall.

The Wildecats also have a lot more speed on the defensive line and at linebacker.

Bell, who along with Collins also plays varsity basketball, thinks that leadership on the team is strong and that this team has people who know how to play the game instead of players who just want to hit somebody.

"Even with all our speed, we can still thump it up the middle," Finney said.

The offensive line will be somewhat inexperienced, but large, with senior Garth Herrick and Tyler Fisher returning as starters.

"The offensive line has been a pleasant surprise," DuVall said.

The trio says one thing is for sure: Expect a more wide open offense from the Wildecats.

Their goal is to win the school's fifth state title and earn respect.

"We have the coaches and the talent, and we hold our own destiny," Collins said.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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