Westminster fights to escape 2-4 hole Football: Mistakes have turned high expectations before the season into a gloomy situation, but the Owls are hoping for a strong finish.

October 12, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

The talk at Westminster football practice Wednesday was probably little different than it had been in previous sessions. The focus was on reducing the number of mistakes.

It is likely that will be the focal point again tomorrow. Fewer mistakes could make the rest of the schedule a lot more fun.

This week, Westminster plays Urbana (4-2) at home, and Urbana had to go overtime Thursday to defeat a Frederick team that Westminster handled, 44-28. The last three Owls games will be against Carroll County foes North Carroll, Liberty, and South Carroll.

The problem with mistakes is that their importance tends to become magnified when the opposition capitalizes on them. It's true in business; it's true in sports.

It turned out to be true last Thursday at Linganore, as the home team turned Westminster turnovers into points in a 39-14 Central Maryland Conference victory. The loss left the Owls with a 2-4 record. So it is that some players' pre-game comments are still true today.

"Nobody is happy with the season," said senior Chad Hayes, a two-way performer at quarterback and defensive back. "We expected to do better."

Still, there was some visible improvement, as the Owls scored two touchdowns on CMC leader Thomas Johnson in a 27-14 loss two weeks ago.

The Owls were within 19-14 when they messed up a fourth-down punting situation and T.J. got the ball on the Westminster 7-yard line). Then, they defeated Frederick eight days ago.

"The Frederick game gave us some confidence, because it showed what we can do without mistakes," added Hayes, who scored both touchdowns at Linganore, but whose 5-foot-10, 150-pound frame took a lot of punishment.

"There were some early games we could of won, but we didn't," two-way lineman Randy Stull pointed out. "We have more size and experience; we need to be more aggressive."

The size is there, with Stull, a 6-foot, 260-pound senior who was an All-County choice on offense and defense last year; Matt Bowers, 6-4, 230; Mark Gonzalez, 6-3, 240; Beau Ridgeway, 6-4, 300, and Lucas Geiman, 6-4, 275. All are seniors but Geiman, a junior.

"Against Frederick, we had good special teams -- didn't give up any touchdowns," added Stull.

Westminster might have had an omen that it was not going to be a good night at Linganore, however, when a penalty on the opening kickoff return set the team back inside its 20-yard line, and less than two minutes later a fourth-down punt was blocked out of the end zone for a safety.

What followed was a case of what could go wrong did. A fumbled punt recovery and an interception led to first-half Linganore touchdowns.

In succession in the second half, a Westminster penalty kept a drive alive that ended in a touchdown; a lost fumble was turned into a touchdown, and an interception became a field goal.

Westminster did have some outstanding plays and solid all-around performances of its own, it just had a hard time establishing continuity. Bowers, Gonzalez, and Chris Gibson had strong defensive efforts, and Novell Washington, a 6-footer with speed in the open, made a couple of outstanding catches of Hayes' passes.

Junior fullback Billy Arnold, 5-11, 185, a JV player last year,

moved up to the varsity, but did not expect to be a starter. Yet, he worked his way into the lineup, then ran for 211 yards, three touchdowns, and a two-point conversion against Frederick. At Linganore, he was a workhorse hitting inside, but was unable to break any long runs.

Stull, a three-year varsity player admits some weight room work has made him stronger, and who had a good game both ways, does not have a preference for which side of the ball he plays.

"It's not one over the other, because each is different," he says. "Offense is more technical -- you have to make exactly the right step, be in position to make the proper block. Defense is just pinning their ears back, getting a good hit."

Looking at the rest of the season, Hayes says, "We need to live up to our potential."

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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